The FCC is responsible for regulating communications transmitted through radio, television, cable, wire, as well as satellites. The commission licenses radio frequencies used by satellites and ensures that satellite operators properly handle their defunct satellite debris. The FCC recently issued a new order that would require satellites to reenter Earth’s atmosphere five years after their missions end, rather than the previous 25-year deadline. Before that, there were no FCC guidelines in place regarding the deorbiting of satellites.

The satellite industry has been wary that the FCC might be looking to expand its regulatory role beyond its already existing scope. However, Rosenworcel denied those claims. “The changes I am announcing today are not about taking on new responsibilities at the FCC,” she said. “They are about performing our existing statutory responsibilities better and freeing up resources to focus on our mission.” The commission is looking to update its rules and speed up its licensing process as part of its efforts to keep up with the industry, according to Rosenworcel.


The FCC’s latest proposal was likely prompted by the increasing number of internet satellites swarming above. Earth’s orbit is indeed getting more crowded, especially with companies like SpaceX and Amazon building constellations of internet satellites. SpaceX has already launched more than 3,000 satellites with CEO Elon Musk hoping to achieve a total of 42,000 satellites in low Earth orbit, while Amazon’s Project Kuiper wants to launch 3,236 satellites.

As the space industry continues to take on a new form, and the number of satellites in Earth orbit increase, a new space bureau will likely be the first of many changes directed towards the regulation of space.


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