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New-age space rules up for revision, FCC says

·2 min read

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said it would kickstart the process to revise decades-old rules on getting rid of space junk and other issues in space.

In a release, it said the inquiry would examine satellite refueling, inspecting and repairing in-orbit spacecraft, capturing and removing debris and transforming materials through manufacturing while in space.

The agency's chairwoman, Jessica Rosenworcel, told reporters Friday after a unanimous 4-0 FCC vote that rules currently in place were "largely built for another era."

Rosenworcel said the FCC needs to make sure rules are "prepared for the proliferation of satellites in orbit and new activities in our higher altitudes."

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The leader said that the FCC is focusing on in-space servicing, assembly and manufacturing (ISAM).

"Today’s action continues this modernization effort as in-space servicing, assembly and manufacturing capabilities – or "ISAM" – has the potential to build entire industries, create new jobs, mitigate climate change and advance America’s economic, scientific, technological and national security interests," the FCC wrote.

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It noted that steps are being taken to update satellite rules and adopt new rules to assist satellite launch companies, giving them "ready access to spectrum for transmissions from space launch vehicles during pre-launch testing and space launch operations."

Furthermore, the proceeding will review the spectrum needs of these missions, implications on the FCC’s orbital debris rules and any "unique regulatory issues" that arise due to ISAM activities beyond the Earth's orbit.

According to NASA, more than 27,000 pieces of orbital debris are tracked by the Department of Defense’s global Space Surveillance Network (SSN) sensors.

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Much more debris exists in the near-Earth space environment, but is too small to be tracked.

"Since both the debris and spacecraft are traveling at extremely high speeds (approximately 15,700 mph in low Earth orbit), an impact of even a tiny piece of orbital debris with a spacecraft could create big problems," the agency said.

Reuters contributed to this report.