fcc approves new satellite deorbiting rule, says previous guideline is ‘too long’

Disney’s animated film WALL-E gave its audiences a rather bleak view of Earth’s future if humanity left it full of garbage.

During one of WALL-E’s adventures, a rocket took him off the planet, showing a large number of non-operational artificial satellites orbiting the planet even after humanity left.

This kind of future is what the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is trying to avoid with its newest ruling.

The FCC recently updated their ruling regarding the deorbiting of satellites from Earth’s low orbit to give the space industry a better chance to grow.

As of 2021, 6,4542 satellites are orbiting Earth, of which 3,372 are operational, while the remaining 3,170 are inactive, per Geo Spatial World.

FCC New Artificial Satellite Ruling Details

The FCC mentioned in its announcement that the new ruling it adopted would require low-Earth orbit satellite operators to deorbit them within five years of completing their mission or as soon as it’s practicable.

Although the FCC’s new ruling is significantly shorter than its previous ruling of 25 years, this new 5year-rule is expected to help reduce the growing risk of “space junk” in Eath’s low orbit, according to an Engadget report.

For those unaware, the Cambridge dictionary defined space junk as objects and/or materials left in space by human activity as they are no longer wanted. These include abandoned satellites, rockets, and other debris.

The FCC explained in its announcement that the presence of these space junk on Earth’s low orbit could cause short- and long-term problems for upcoming and future space missions.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement that the previous one that required satellites to be deorbited by 25 years is “a long time.”

“There is no reason to wait that long anymore, especially in low-Earth orbit,” Rosenworsel added. “The second space age is here. For it to continue to grow, we need to do more to clean up after ourselves so space innovation can continue to respond.”

FCC’s chairwoman also said that the new 5-year-rule would also mean more accountability for satellite operators and fewer risks of collisions that increase orbital debris and the possibility of communication failures in space.

Commissioner Geoffrey Starks is also of the same mind as Rosenworcel, saying that the new rule will have humanity take the practical step of reducing satellite demise times in low-Earth orbit to a more readily achievable timeframe, per Tech Crunch.

Disagreement Within The Government

However, not everyone agrees with Rosenworcel’s plan. Members of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology said in a letter to Rosenworcel that NASA should be the one to decide how long satellite operators have to deorbit their satellites.

They argued that the FCC’s ruling could create confusion and uncertainty for the space industry nationally and internationally.

As such, should the FCC’s ruling gets approved by its commissioners, which they did, the Committee could try to overturn it. However, it is inviting the FCC to work with it through availing its Science Committee and its staff to ensure that procedural measures are unnecessary.

Keyword: FCC Approves New Satellite Deorbiting Rule, Says Previous Guideline Is ‘Too Long’

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