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FCC Fines Dish $150,000 for Failed Deorbit 

By Rachel Jewett | October 3, 2023

      DISH Network headquarters in Englewood, Colorado.

      The FCC took its first space debris enforcement action on Monday, fining Dish Network $150,000 for failure to properly deorbit its EchoStar-7 satellite. Dish admitted liability as part of the settlement. 

      The EchoStar-7 was launched in February 2002 and entered service later that year. According to FCC documents on the investigation, Dish identified in February 2022 that the satellite was running low on propellant and would need to be deorbited, but there was not enough propellant available to maneuver it to the correct orbit. 

      Specifically, Dish disposed of the EchoStar-7 satellite at 122 km above its operational Geostationary Orbit (GEO), short of the 300 km above its operational orbit that was outlined in its orbital debris mitigation plan. 

      The FCC statement said the satellite “could pose orbital debris concerns at this lower altitude.” 

      “As satellite operations become more prevalent and the space economy accelerates, we must be certain that operators comply with their commitments,” commented the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau Chief Loyaan Egal. “This is a breakthrough settlement, making very clear the FCC has strong enforcement authority and capability to enforce its vitally important space debris rules.”

      The FCC and Dish agreed on a consent decree, including admitting liability, implementing a compliance plan, and the $150,000 civil penalty. Dish agreed to put together a compliance plan in the next 60 days to make sure the company can follow Communications Laws, improve propellant tracking, and improve end of life mission disposal plans.