November 27, 2022

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SpaceX, Relativity and others urge FCC to stay on track • Eureka News Now

2 min read

Major space companies like SpaceX and Relativity are asking the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to stick to its area of ​​responsibility – spectrum usage – as it may want to update its rules for ISAM (In-Space Service, Assembly and Manufacturing) missions

There is much the FCC could — and should — do to support ISAM missions that fall well within its regulatory boundaries, companies said. SpaceX and others, as well as startups like Orbit Fab, which wants to build tank farms in space, and Starfish Space, which is developing a satellite maintenance vehicle, have made recommendations on spectrum and ISAM. The commission also heard from Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, United Launch Alliance and other space companies and industry groups.

“The biggest part of this process is asking, do we need a new spectrum assignment for ISAM?” Brian Weeden, executive director of The Consortium for Execution of Rendezvous and Servicing Operations (CONFERS), told Eureka News Now in a recent interview. “And that is well within the existing authority of the FCC.”

The FCC asked industry for comments after opening a new case on ISAM in August. In a statement, the commission said it was specifically trying to understand how to “update, clarify or change its rules and licensing processes” to support these emerging capabilities in space. SpaceX, Relativity and others said in their replies that the FCC should exercise its considerable authority on spectrum use and licensing issues — and only on spectrum use and licensing issues.

“The Commission must treat this potentially important but nascent industry with care and be careful not to inadvertently stifle innovation by abandoning the powers it has been expressly delegated by Congress,” SpaceX said.

Relativity Space and the industry body Commercial Spaceflight Federation separately argued that the FCC’s involvement in off-spectrum matters could result in duplicate licensing processes. These could be particularly difficult to navigate for smaller startups and newer space entrants.

The new procedure is one of a few measures the Commission has taken in recent months to keep up with the growing commercial space industry. In September, the FCC also updated rules regarding spacecraft de-orbiting and management of in-orbit debris, and voted to require satellite operators to de-orbit satellites 5 years after completing their mission, instead of 25.

However, such actions have raised questions about whether the FCC has sufficient powers to enact such rules. To date, Congress has made no gesture to increase or expand that authority.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel appeared to tacitly acknowledge these concerns in a speech to the Satellite Industry Association, announcing that the FCC would establish a new bureau to deal with space activities.

“The changes I’m announcing today are not about taking on new responsibilities at the FCC,” she said. “It’s about better meeting our existing legal obligations and freeing up resources to focus on our mission.”

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