News

Rosenworcel proposes plan to combat surging space debris

Rosenworcel at ITU.jpg

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has a plan in place to minimise orbital debris by requiring Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites to be disposed of no more than five years after being taken out of service.

The new rules were proposed by chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and will shorten the existing 25-year guideline for deorbiting satellites after they cease to function.

Rosenworcel announced her proposal last week in Houston, Texas at the National Space Council meeting chaired by Kamala Harris, Vice President of the US.

“Since 1957 humanity has put thousands of satellites into the sky, often with the understanding that they were cheaper to abandon than take out of orbit,” Rosenworcel said.

“These satellites can stay in orbit for decades, careening around our increasingly crowded skies as space junk and raising the risk of collisions that can ruin satellites we count on.

The five-year rule would be legally binding, unlike the current standards in place that was based on NASA’s recommendations in the 1990s.

The rule will be in place for US-licensed satellites and would also apply to operators of non-US licensed satellites if they seek US market access.

“Our space economy is moving fast. For it to continue to grow, we need to do more to clean up after ourselves so space innovation can continue to expand,” Rosenworcel added.

“That is why I am proposing to shorten the 25-year guideline to no more than five years.

“It will mean more accountability and less risk of collisions that increase debris. I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting this effort.”