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FCC approves five-year orbital debris rule

FCC Building. Credit: FCC

Edinburgh, 5 October 2022. – The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a rule to shorten the time frame in which satellite operators should deorbit their low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, the FCC announced. The new rule states that operators now have five years instead of 25, to safely deorbit their defunct spacecraft.

The the new rule aiming to mitigate the issue of growing space debris in LEO, applies to non-operational spacecraft at altitudes of up to 2,000 km. These will now have to deorbit as soon as possible and no more than five years after ending their mission. The rule is applicable to spacecraft launched two years after the order is adopted. In addition, it will have a bearing on both US-licensed satellites and those seeking market access in the country.

Last year alone, there were 1,700 satellites launched into space and this number is projected to grow to tens of thousands in the next decade. Adopting the new rule will mean less collision risk and the protection of space infrastructure vital for Earth applications.

Earlier, the House Science Committee issued a letter asking the FCC to delay consideration of the rule. It also questioned the FCC’s authority regarding the regulation of orbital debris.

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