FCC Approves Use of Europe’s Galileo Satellite Navigation System in U.S.

WASHINGTON, November 15, 2018 (FCC PR) — Today, the Federal Communications Commission granted in part the European Commission’s request for a waiver of the Commission’s rules so that non-Federal devices in the United States may access specific signals transmitted from the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) known as Galileo.

With today’s action, consumers and industry in the United States will now be permitted to access certain satellite signals from the Galileo system to augment the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS), and thus benefit from improved availability, reliability, and resiliency of these position, navigation, and timing services in the United States.

(more…)

FCC Launches Review of Satellite Orbital Debris Mitigation Rules

WASHINGTON, November 15, 2018  (FCC PR) — The Federal Communications Commission today initiated a comprehensive review of its orbital debris mitigation rules. [Download proposed rules here.]

Orbital debris, also known as space debris, consists of a variety of objects, including non-functional satellites, that are orbiting the Earth. Debris can pose a risk to operations in Earth orbit, including satellites and manned spacecraft, and in some instances, pieces of debris falling back to Earth can pose a risk to persons and property on the surface of the Earth.

(more…)

Starlink 12K: Elon Musk’s Big Gamble on Global Satellite Internet

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s plan to provide high-speed communications to virtually any location on Earth got a big boost this week when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved the company’s plan to add 7,518 satellites to the company’s Starlink constellation.

The action brings the total number of satellites in Starlink to 11,943 following the FCC’s earlier approval of 4,425 spacecraft last year.

Starlink is Musk’s ambitious entry into the global satellite Internet race. He is gambling big that there is a sufficient market worldwide to make the constellation profitable.

SpaceX launched two test Starlink test satellites into orbit earlier this year. Published reports say Musk wants to launch the first batch of satellites in the middle of next year, with service to begin in 2020.

Starlink is facing competition from OneWeb, which is planning to launch a constellation of 882 satellites to provide similar service. OneWeb plans to begin launching spacecraft next year.

The FCC also approved satellite broadband constellations by three other satellite companies last week. Telesat Canada received approval for an 117-satellite constellation while LeoSat plans to launch 78 spacecraft.

Kepler Communication’s 140-satellite constellation is focused on providing communications for the Internet of Things.

“These proposed satellite systems are expected to enable fixed satellite service in the United States, expanding global connectivity and advancing the goals of increasing high-speed broadband availability and competition in the marketplace,” the FCC said in a press release.

The constellations will greatly increase the number of satellites in Earth orbit. There are currently about 4,900 spacecraft in orbit out of the approximately 8,100 launched since the Space Age began in October 1957. Nearly 2,000 spacecraft are currently operational.

FCC Proposes to Further Streamline Satellite Regulations

WASHINGTON, November 15, 2018 (FCC PR) — The Federal Communications Commission today proposed to further simplify and streamline its rules governing satellite communications. This proceeding is part of an ongoing effort to make the regulatory approval process for satellite licenses more efficient and less burdensome.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adopted today builds upon the FCC’s 2016 Biennial Review as well as initiatives developed by Commission staff during its independent review. One significant proposal is to create a new unified license for space stations and earth stations operating in a geostationary orbit, fixed-satellite service network. The proposed unified network license would eliminate redundancies in the separate licensing processes for satellites and earth stations.

The NPRM also seeks comment on other proposals, such as eliminating certain annual reporting requirements for satellite operators and aligning the build-out periods for some earth stations with the accompanying build-out periods for their communicating satellites.

Action by the Commission November 15, 2018 by Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 18-165). Chairman Pai, Commissioners O’Rielly, Carr, and Rosenworcel approving. Chairman Pai and Commissioner O’Rielly issuing separate statements.

FCC Approves Satellite Constellations for SpaceX, Kepler, Telesat Canada & LeoSat

  • SpaceX constellation includes 7,518 satellite Internet spacecraft
  • Three other approved constellations total 335 satellites

WASHINGTON, November 15, 2018 (FCC PR) —  The Federal Communications Commission today approved the requests of four companies—Space Exploration Holdings, LLC (SpaceX), Kepler Communications, Inc. (Kepler), Telesat Canada (Telesat), and LeoSat MA, Inc. (LeoSat)—seeking to roll-out new and expanded services using proposed non-geostationary satellite orbit (NGSO) satellites.

These proposed satellite systems are expected to enable fixed satellite service in the United States, expanding global connectivity and advancing the goals of increasing high-speed broadband availability and competition in the marketplace.

(more…)

Presidential Memorandum on Developing a Sustainable Spectrum Strategy for America’s Future

Credit: Matt Wade

MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES

SUBJECT:  Developing a Sustainable Spectrum Strategy for America’s Future

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1.  Policy.  It is the policy of the United States to use radiofrequency spectrum (spectrum) as efficiently and effectively as possible to help meet our economic, national security, science, safety, and other Federal mission goals now and in the future.  To best achieve this policy, the Nation requires a balanced, forward-looking, flexible, and sustainable approach to spectrum management.

(more…)

Look Out Elon! Here Comes Zuck: Facebook Working on Satellite Internet Program

Mark Zuckerberg (Credit: Anthony Quintano)

Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook is working on a satellite Internet project designed to provide broadband access around the globe, Wired reports.

The emails show that the social network wants to launch Athena, its very own internet satellite, in early 2019. The new device is designed to “efficiently provide broadband access to unserved and underserved areas throughout the world,” according to an application the social network appears to have filed with the FCC under the name PointView Tech LLC.

With the filing, Facebook joins Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Softbank-backed OneWeb, two well-funded organizations working on similar projects. In fact, SpaceX launched the first two of what it hopes will be thousands of its Starlink satellites just this past February.

The emails, which date back to July 2016, and subsequent confirmation from Facebook, confirm a story published in May by IEEE Spectrum, which used public records to speculate that Facebook had started a satellite internet project.

The new emails detail meetings between FCC officials and lawyers from a firm Facebook appears to have hired, which specializes in representing clients before government agencies. In one exchange from 2016, a lawyer from the firm requests to meet with FCC officials in the Office of Engineering & Technology and the International Bureau Satellite Division to discuss applying for an experimental license to construct and operate a “small LEO [low Earth orbit] satellite system with a limited duration mission.” The emails indicate that Facebook also set up subsequent meetings with the FCC in June and December of 2017.

SpaceX Applies for Permission to Land Falcon 9 Stage at Vandenberg

Falcon 9 first stage comes in for a landing after launching the Zuma payload. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has applied for permission to land a Falcon 9 first stage at Vandenberg Air Force Base for the first time.

The request to the Federal Communications Commission for “special temporary authority” covers a six-month window from September 5, 2018 to March 5, 2019. SpaceX needs permission for communications between the landing site and the returning first-stage booster for the experimental operation.

All previous land recoveries have taken place at Cape Canaveral in Florida. SpaceX has recovered first stages from Vandenberg launches using offshore drone ships.

FCC Expands Market Access for SES O3b MEO Constellation

CC grant allows SES to super charge the O3b system, the only operational non-geostationary broadband constellation and the world’s first global multi-terabit satellite network

LUXEMBOURG, 8 June 2018 (SES PR) — SES announced today that it has been granted, by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), authorization to serve the U.S. market using a significantly expanded O3b fleet in the Medium Earth Orbit (MEO).

(more…)

Audacy Receives FCC License for First Commercial Inter-satellite Data Relay Network


MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., June 7, 2018 (Audacy PR)  – Audacy announced today that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has granted Audacy a license to operate the first commercial inter-satellite data relay network. Audacy will use the spectrum to provide real-time downlink, continuous monitoring, and always-on command services to customers’ LEO spacecraft.

(more…)

Proposed FCC Regulations Could Put CubeSats Out of Reach for Students

CubeSats (Credit: NASA)

Well, this doesn’t sound good.

In a move that threatens U.S. education in science, technology, engineering and math, and could have repercussions throughout the country’s aerospace industry, the FCC is proposing regulations that may license some educational satellite programs as commercial enterprises. That could force schools to pay a US$135,350 annual fee – plus a $30,000 application fee for the first year – to get the federal license required for a U.S. organization to operate satellite communications.

It would be a dramatic increase in costs. The most common type of small satellite used in education is the U.S.-developed CubeSat. Each is about 10 inches on a side and weighs 2 or 3 pounds. A working CubeSat that can take pictures of the Earth can be developed for only $5,000 in parts. They’re assembled by volunteer students and launched by NASA at no charge to the school or college. Currently, most missions pay under $100 to the FCC for an experimental license, as well as several hundred dollars to the International Telecommunications Union, which coordinates satellite positions and frequencies.

U.S. CubeSat programs have been a model for space education programs around the world. In our work in North Dakota, we’ve seen the power of satellites to excite and engage students. And we’re not alone. Hundreds of CubeSats have given students hands-on experience, even reaching elementary schools, to get younger students interested in, and connected to, engineering and space science. In my view, the FCC should protect all this by making clear what fees apply to school and university missions, and ensuring the cost is much lower than $135,350.

FCC: Satellite Companies Must Obtain Licenses Before Launch

Swarm SpaceBee satellite (Credit: ISRO)

In the wake of an unlicensed satellite launch by a Silicon Valley startup, the FCC has issued an advisory spelling out licensing requirements that company must comply with before launch.

“Compliance with requirements for licensing of satellite communications is not optional,” the commission said. “Failure to comply with FCC requirements can and will result in enforcement action.”

The FCC says that Swarm Technologies launched four SpaceBee prototype satellites aboard an Indian PSLV rocket in January despite the agency having previously rejected the company’s application for a license.

(more…)

FCC Approves SpaceX’s Application for 4,425-Satellite Broadband Constellation

WASHINGTON, March 29, 2018 (FCC PR) – The Federal Communications Commission approved an application by Space Exploration Holdings, doing business as SpaceX, to provide broadband services using satellite technology in the United States and around the world. With this action, the Commission takes another step to increase high-speed broadband availability and competition in the United States.

This is the first approval of a U.S.-licensed satellite constellation to provide broadband services using a new generation of low-Earth orbit satellite technologies. SpaceX proposed a satellite system comprised of 4,425 satellites and was granted authority to use frequencies in the Ka (20/30 GHz) and Ku (11/14 GHz) bands to provide global Internet connectivity.

The Memorandum Opinion, Order and Authorization today outlines the conditions under which SpaceX is authorized to provide service using its proposed NGSO FSS satellite constellation. Specifically, the Order specifies the conditions to ensure compliance with Commission rules, and to protect other operations in the requested frequency bands.

Over the past year, the FCC has approved requests by OneWeb, Space Norway, and Telesat to access the United States market to provide broadband services using satellite technology that holds promise to expand Internet access, particularly in remote and rural areas across the country. These approvals are the first of their kind for a new generation of large, non-geostationary satellite orbit, fixed-satellite service systems, and the Commission continues to process other, similar requests.

Silicon Valley Company Launched Satellites Without FCC Approval

SpaceBEE satellite (Credit: ISRO)

A Silicon Valley startup named Swarm Technologies has been accused of launching four tiny satellites into space without FCC approval. The four SpaceBEE satellites, which are about one quarter the size of a 1U CubeSat, were launched aboard an Indian PSLV booster in January. The satellites are testing Internet of Things technologies.

The only problem is, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had dismissed Swarm’s application for its experimental satellites a month earlier, on safety grounds. The FCC is responsible for regulating commercial satellites, including minimizing the chance of accidents in space. It feared that the four SpaceBees now orbiting the Earth would pose an unacceptable collision risk for other spacecraft.

If confirmed, this would be the first ever unauthorized launch of commercial satellites.

On Wednesday, the FCC sent Swarm a letter revoking its authorization for a follow-up mission with four more satellites, due to launch next month. A pending application for a large market trial of Swarm’s system with two Fortune 100 companies could also be in jeopardy.

In fact, the FCC told the startup that the agency would assess “the impact of the applicant’s apparent unauthorized launch and operation of four satellites… on its qualifications to be a Commission licensee.” If Swarm cannot convince the FCC otherwise, the startup could lose permission to build its revolutionary network before the wider world even knows the company exists.

Read the full story.

National Space Council Approves 4 Recommendations on Regulatory Reform

WASHINGTON, DC (White House PR) — Vice President Mike Pence will provide policy recommendations to the President to streamline the regulatory environment for commercial space companies. At the second National Space Council Meeting, the council agreed on the following four recommendations to reform the commercial space regulatory frameworks at the Departments of Transportation and Commerce:

(more…)