New-age space rules up for revision, FCC says

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said it would begin the process of revising decades-old rules to get rid of space junk and other problems in space.

In a release, it said the research would explore refueling satellites, inspecting and repairing spacecraft in orbit, collecting and removing debris, and transforming materials through manufacturing in space.

Bureau chairman Jessica Rosenworcel told reporters Friday after a unanimous 4-0 FCC vote that the current rules are “largely built for a different era.”

Rosenworcel said the FCC must ensure rules are “prepared for the proliferation of satellites in orbit and new activities at our higher altitudes.”

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FILE PHOTO: Signage on display at the Federal Communications Commission headquarters in Washington, DC, US, August 29, 2020. (REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File photo/Reuters)

The leader said the FCC is targeting space maintenance, assembly and manufacturing (ISAM).

“Today’s action continues this modernization effort, as service, assembly and manufacturing capabilities in space — or “ISAM” — have the potential to build entire industries, create new jobs, mitigate climate change, and boost the economic, scientific , advance America’s technological and national security interests,” the FCC wrote.

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Earth seen from space (NASA/Fox News)

It noted that steps are being taken to update satellite rules and adopt new rules to assist satellite launchers, giving them “ready access to spectrum for space launch vehicle broadcasts during pre-launch testing and space launch operations.”

Further, the proceeding will assess the spectrum needs of these missions, the implications for the FCC’s orbital debris rules, and any “unique regulatory issues” that arise as a result of ISAM activities beyond Earth’s orbit.

According to NASA, more than 27,000 pieces of orbital debris are being tracked by sensors from the Department of Defense’s global Space Surveillance Network (SSN).

Space station

FILE PHOTO: The International Space Station (ISS) photographed by Expedition 56 crew members of a Soyuz spacecraft after docking, October 4, 2018. (NASA/Roscosmos/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo/Reuters)

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There is much more debris in space near Earth, but it is too small to be tracked.

“Because both the debris and the spacecraft are traveling at extremely high speeds (about 15,700 mph in low Earth orbit), an impact of even a small piece of orbital debris with a spacecraft could cause major problems,” the agency said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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