Latest News

FCC Adopts Guidance on Orbital Debris Mitigation Rules 

By Rachel Jewett | January 30, 2024

      Photo: NASA

      The FCC adopted guidance during its January meeting on orbital debris mitigation rules to provide clarity and guidance to satellite operators. 

      The FCC adopted an Order on Reconsideration on Jan. 25 to address issues raised by Boeing, EchoStar, Hughes Network Services, Planet Labs, Spire Global, Telesat, SpaceX, and Amazon in response to the Commission’s 2020 Orbital Debris Mitigation Report. The order addresses a number of concerns including the  burden on applicants, maneuverability, and a case-by-case regulatory approach. 

      FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement that the reconsideration is part of the FCC’s Space Innovation agenda to hold operators accountable for complying with orbital debris policies. Last year the FCC issued its first ever enforcement action for a failed deorbit

      “We reaffirm the updates we made earlier to our orbital debris mitigation rules and offer additional guidance for satellite operators deploying their systems. Among other things, we provide clear examples to assist with compliance with reporting requirements for maneuverability and the use of detachable deployment devices. In short, we are reinforcing our commitment to space sustainability. That is because it is a fundamental part of our Space Innovation agenda,” Rosenworcel said. 

      All five FCC commissioners approved the order. Commissioner Nathan Simington issued a separate statement saying that while he approved of the order, he believes the FCC should apply the same orbital debris rules to both U.S-licensed providers and market access licensees authorized in other countries.

      Simington said the current process allows non U.S.-licensed space stations to fulfill orbital debris rules with oversight from the licensing country, which he believes puts U.S. licensed providers at a disadvantage to comply with more rigorous regulations.