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FCC’s Space Bureau Seeks Further Input on Regulation of Orbital Debris

 |  June 3, 2024


The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is reopening the public comment period on potential amendments to its orbital debris mitigation rules, offering space industry stakeholders another chance to provide input on these significant regulations. This move underscores the FCC’s commitment to leading in the regulation of commercial space operations. Stakeholders have until Thursday, June 27, to submit their comments, with a deadline of Friday, July 12, for any reply comments, as announced in today’s Federal Register.

This action follows a Public Notice issued by the FCC’s Space Bureau, which was established last year to enhance the agency’s role in the rapidly growing space economy. The Public Notice aims to update the FCC’s record on proposed amendments to its orbital debris mitigation rules. These rules generally require U.S. satellite operators (and non-U.S.-licensed satellite operators seeking U.S. market access) to submit satellite design and operational strategies to the FCC to minimize the risk of orbital debris.

The FCC last sought comments on these issues in April 2020, when it expanded and refined its orbital debris mitigation framework. Additionally, the FCC issued a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) to gather input on further rule amendments and proposals, addressing issues such as:

  • How satellite operators can demonstrate they have adequately assessed and limited the probability of accidental explosions.
  • How the FCC should evaluate the collision risk of large, multi-satellite constellations.
  • Whether there should be a requirement for all non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) satellites operating above a certain altitude to maintain propulsion capabilities for station-keeping and collision-avoidance maneuvers.
  • How the FCC should consider human casualty risk, especially regarding large, multi-satellite constellations.
  • Whether satellite operators should be required, as a condition of an FCC satellite license, to indemnify the U.S. government for any liability from claims for damage resulting from satellite operations.