Mitigation of Orbital Debris in the New Space Age
Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, IB Docket No. 18-313
Background: Since 2004, when the Commission first adopted rules regarding orbital debris mitigation for Commission-authorized satellites, there have been a number of developments in technologies and business models that pose new or additional orbital debris risks. These developments include the increasing deployment of lower-cost small satellites and of large constellations of non-geostationary satellite orbit systems, some potentially involving thousands of satellites.
This revision of our orbital debris mitigation rules would address these recent developments and incorporate technical guidance from the broad U.S. Government interagency community that developed the recent update to the U.S. Government Orbital Debris Mitigation Standard Practices.
What the Report and Order Would Do:
- Revise existing application disclosure rules to incorporate numeric thresholds, including for:
- risk of collision with large objects
- risk of collision with small objects that would disable the satellite
- probability of successful post-mission disposal
- casualty risk associated with those satellites that will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere
- Adopt a requirement that all satellites must be equipped with maneuverability sufficient to perform collision avoidance maneuvers during any period when the satellite is in an orbit that is above the International Space Station (approximately 400 kilometers altitude).
- Update disclosure requirements and adopt new disclosure requirements related to limiting collision risk, protecting inhabitable spacecraft, maneuverability, use of deployment devices, release of persistent liquids, and proximity operations.
- Adopt disclosure requirements regarding satellite trackability, satellite identification, and how operators plan to share information related to space situational awareness, such as ephemeris data.
- Codify informational requirements for geostationary-orbit satellite license extensions and limit the duration of such extensions to five years maximum per extension.
- Clarify existing high-level Commission requirements regarding maintaining control of authorized stations, including for satellite command communications.
- Clarify liability issues by adopting a requirement that licensees indemnify the United States for costs associated with any claims brought against the United States under international outer space treaties.
- Clarify that the revised rules, with some exceptions, apply to applicants under parts 5, 25, and 97 of the Commission’s rules, including applicants for U.S. market access under part 25.
What the Further Notice Would Do:
- Propose a bond requirement for geostationary and non-geostationary orbit space stations associated with successful post-mission disposal.