With Earth’s orbit increasingly crowded with satellites, a U.S. government agency said on Friday it will start reviewing decades-old rules to dispose of space junk and address issues such as resupplying satellite fueling and inspection and repair of spacecraft in orbit.
“We believe the new space age needs new rules,” Federal Communications Commission ( FCC (BME: FCC )) Chair Jessica Rosenworcel said after a 4-0 vote at the agency, adding that current rules “they were largely built for another age.”
He said the FCC needs to “make sure our rules are prepared for the proliferation of satellites in orbit and new activities at our highest altitudes.”
The FCC also plans to study “new ways to clean up orbital debris. After all, there are thousands of metric tons of debris in space,” Rosenworcel added. The FCC will study “the potential for orbital debris cleanup and removal functions that offer the prospect of improving the orbital debris environment.”
The FCC is raising questions about in-space servicing, assembly and manufacturing (ISAM), which includes work like “repairing and refueling satellites and even assembling entirely new systems in orbit,” Rosenworcel said.
“The FCC remains the only agency that licenses virtually all commercial space missions to the United States,” said FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks.
“With that power comes a responsibility to understand the missions we authorize and to create an enabling regulatory environment that opens new doors while protecting against new risks.”
Starks said the procedure “will help us build the record we need to fully understand emerging ISAM technologies, their spectrum requirements (and) their debris implications,” he noted.