Satellite operators ask for exemptions to overcome deorbitation rules • The Registry

A group of satellite operators has asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reconsider its proposed five-year window to remove orbital junk by adding language that would allow them to request waivers to exceed the limit.

Iridium Communications, HughesNet operator EchoStar, Luxembourg-based SES and OneWeb, are currently building a constellation of satellites that are said to provide global broadband, they wrote the letter. [PDF] earlier this week. The group requested that the FCC “adopt explicit language recognizing that operators can request and obtain waivers of the five-year post-mission disposal rule for just cause”, as well as establish “objective criteria” for evaluating waiver requests.

The FCC has proposed its new rule, which would reduce the period for space operators to remove retired equipment from Low Earth Orbit (LEO, defined as less than 2,000 kilometers) from 25 to five years, at the beginning of this. month in an effort to clear up the growing crowded space surrounding the earth.

FCC President Jessica Rosenworcel said of the proposal that it is necessary to support the rapidly growing space economy. “Satellites can stay in orbit for decades, skidding around our increasingly crowded skies like space junk and increasing the risk of collisions that can ruin the satellites we rely on,” Rosenworcel said.

As noted in previous coverage, the FCC said there were more than 4,800 satellites orbiting Earth at the end of 2021, with most of those fluttering in LEO. According to the FCC, many of these satellites have been launched in the past two years “and projections for future growth suggest there will be many more on the way.”

In August, the FCC voted to open a proceeding on assistance, assembly and manufacturing in space, or ISAM, which would see some industrial processes moved into Earth orbit to protect the environment and mitigate climate change.

Rosenworcel said space debris could be removed from ISAM operations, but FCC commissioner Nathan Simington expressed concern that space debris could impact ISAM operations by damaging equipment. Simington said in a statement that the FCC was considering updating its space debris rules.

Aside from the threat of falling space junk to cities and people, an overabundance of satellites in Earth’s orbit has also affected astronomers, who said there is so much orbital hardware that Starlink satellites appear in about a fifth of the images. taken by some telescopes. Artificial intelligence algorithms have been developed to combat this, but they have only proven so effective.

SpaceX’s second generation of Starlink satellites are designed to minimize light pollution on Earth, but until the Musk-owned company gets its spaceship off the ground, it won’t be able to launch the new hardware.

The FCC is expected to vote on the five-year proposal on September 29. Whether a opt-out option will be added remains to be seen; so far the FCC has not answered our questions asking it. ®