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FCC Proposes New Framework for Licensing In-Space Servicing 

By Rachel Jewett | February 16, 2024

NASA’s On-orbit Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing 1 (OSAM-1) autocapture test bed. Photo: NASA

The Federal Communications Commission proposed a framework for licensing in-space servicing, assembly, and manufacturing (ISAM) activities at its most recent meeting on Feb. 15. All five commissioners voted in favor of proposing the framework. 

The FCC said these proposed changes are meant to support the development of these space activities, which it described as an “area of rapidly accelerating innovation and economic opportunity.”

ISAM refers to a set of capabilities used on-orbit. “Servicing” includes activities such as the in-space inspection, life extension, repair, and refueling, as well as debris collection and removal. “Assembly” refers to the on-orbit construction of a space system using pre-manufactured components, and “manufacturing” is the transformation of raw or recycled materials into components or products in space. 

“If we want to expand connectivity on Earth, address global climate change, protect our national security, and support human life on the moon and beyond, we will benefit from ISAM systems,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. “That is why today we are proposing a new framework to license ISAM space stations and ensure they have access to the communications necessary for their effective use. We have developed common sense, flexible rules that provide ISAM operators a clear path forward for their applications for novel use cases so they can develop new services in our skies.” 

The industry now has the option to make comments on the proposed framework. 

Read more: Members of the Space and Satellite Group in Wiley’s Telecom, Media & Technology Practice recently wrote about the proposed ISAM licensing framework for Via Satellite.