The Federal Communications Commission wants to do something in low Earth orbit. On Thursday, the agency (via ) which, if adopted, would set a time limit on how long non-geostationary satellites can remain in space.
As it is, NASA’s voluntary guidelines published in the 1990s recommend that dead satellites be removed from orbit within 25 years. The FCC wants to adopt a five-year rule that would require domestic satellite operators and companies that want to access the US market to get rid of their non-functioning satellites as soon as they can. “We believe that it is no longer sustainable to leave satellites in LEO [low Earth orbit] to go out of orbit for decades”, states the FCC in its proposal.
Our space economy is moving fast. For it to continue to grow, we must do more to clean up our mess so space innovation can continue to expand. That is why I propose to shorten the guideline from 25 years to no more than 5 years. https://t.co/u8uImI25hQ
—Jessica Rosenworcel (@JRosenworcelFCC) September 9, 2022
Satellites already in space would be exempt from the FCC guidelines. The Commission is also proposing a two-year grandfathering period beginning on September 29, the day it plans to vote on the regulation. That exception would give organizations that previously got approval for a future satellite launch time to develop a disposal plan for their spacecraft. The FCC said it would also grant waivers on a case-by-case basis after NASA raised concerns that the five-year limit would hurt its .
The proposal comes as the number of satellites in low-Earth orbit is expected to increase dramatically in the coming years. With contributions from companies such as , and , as many as it could be hovering over the planet by 2025. Those satellites will not only make it more difficult, but also increase the likelihood of a possible crash.
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