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FCC Opens Space Bureau to Modernize Satellite Policy

By Rachel Jewett | April 11, 2023

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel at live streamed kickoff event on April 11 for the FCC’s new Space Bureau. Screenshot via FCC livestream.

The FCC officially opened its new Space Bureau on Tuesday as part of a plan from the commission to rethink and modernize its satellite policy. The FCC appointed Julie Kearney as chief of the Space Bureau, and Ethan Lucarelli as chief of the Office of International Affairs. 

This formalizes a move the FCC introduced in November 2022 and voted to approve earlier this year. It splits the International Bureau, which currently handles international telecommunications and satellite policies and licensing, to create a Space Bureau and a standalone Office of International Affairs. 

The FCC is not new to regulating and supporting the space industry, but this reorganization will better support the new era of satellites and the broader space economy, Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said. 

“This reimagined Space Bureau we’re launching today is going to support United States leadership in the emerging space economy, promote long-term technical capacity to address satellite policies, and improve our coordination with other agencies on all of these issues,” Rosenworcel said during a live streamed kick-off event on Tuesday. “Meanwhile, our Office of International Affairs is going to position us for the global challenges that are coming.” 

The Space Bureau will lead policy analysis and rulemaking, authorize satellites and Earth station systems, and serve as the focal point for coordination with other U.S. government agencies on space policy. 

The Office of International Affairs (OIA) will be responsible for the commission’s engagement of foreign and international regulatory authorities, including multilateral and regional organizations. It will also license international telecommunications facilities and services and advise the FCC on foreign ownership issues. 

Kearney joined the commission in February as senior counsel to help lead this transition. She previously worked in the private sector for communications companies including Twilio, Loon (Alphabet), National Public Radio, MCI, the Consumer Technology Association, and in private legal practice. 

Kearney said the Space Bureau will work on the FCC’s Space Innovation Agenda to accelerate space applications and innovate technologies and update space safety rules. She shared an open invitation to the industry to share information, work together, and collaborate .

“We really see that we have a key role in promoting U.S. leadership and promoting industry and government cooperation,” Kearney said at the event. “The first thing we’re really focused on is modernizing regulations to match our new reality and supporting tech innovation. And simultaneously focusing on orbital debris and space safety … and looking to our colleagues within the FCC and industry to prioritize the regulatory processes and transparency.” 

Lucarelli most recently served as legal advisor to Chairwoman Rosenworcel on wireless and international policy issues, and also advised her on public safety and served as an advisor in the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. He previously worked for Inmarsat and Wiley Rein LLP.

Lucarelli spoke to the importance of an Office of International Affairs, comparing it to an in-house international consultancy for the FCC. He said top priorities include preparing for World Radiocommunications Conference 23 (WRC-23), leading international engagement on issues like connecting the unconnected, and managing the FCC’s efforts in international standards. 

“Identifying an Office of International Affairs recognizes that the international component touches upon all of the substantive work that’s done across the agency and all the bureaus. It’s really important to be doing this right now. I think with this moment of globalization in telecom policy, recognizing that the things that are happening here in the United States are being watched globally. And there’s a lot that we can learn from what’s happening globally as well,” Lucarelli said.  

In addition, the commission announced Ronald Repasi as chief of the Office of Engineering and Technology, and Joel Taubenblatt as chief of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau.

The Satellite Industry Association (SIA) applauded the FCC’s move.

“SIA strongly commends the continued leadership of Chairwoman Rosenworcel and the Commission’s recognition of the expanding importance of the commercial space industry,” Tom Stroup, SIA president said in a statement. “Both Ms. Kearney and Mr. Lucarelli have a wealth of public and commercial industry policy and regulatory expertise and we look forward to working with them, their teams, and the rest of the FCC to further support American space industry leadership and innovation.”