1. The location of the orbital debris rules depends on the type of license sought. For part 5 experimental applications, refer to section 5.64(b) of the Commission’s rules. For part 97 amateur applications, refer to section 97.207(g)(1)(i)-(viii) of the Commission’s rules. For all other applications, refer to section 25.114(d)(14) of the Commission’s rules. For applications under the part 25 streamlined process for small space stations or small spacecraft, also refer to 25.122(c) or 25.123(b), respectively.

  2. An Orbital Debris Assessment Report (ODAR) is a term that is often used to describe a document that details a mission’s compliance with NASA STD-8719.14. An ODAR generally includes a compliance matrix, followed by sections in the report, which expand upon the mission’s compliance with each of the requirements within NASA STD-8719.14. Compliance with NASA STD-8719.14 is assessed using NASA’s Debris Assessment Software (DAS).

    An Orbital Debris Mitigation (ODM) Plan is a document that shows compliance with the Commission’s relevant orbital debris rules. The Commission’s rules include some of the same requirements as NASA STD-8719.14, along with additional requirements. While the Commission will accept documents that are titled “ODAR” it is important that applicants address these additional requirements.

  3. No. While NASA’s DAS is a useful tool, the “compliant / not-compliant" output does not by itself establish compliance with the Commission’s rules. The Commission staff reviews the other outputs of the DAS code to assess compliance with its rules.

    Part 25 provides the opportunity for non-U.S. licensed satellites to communicate with earth stations licensed by the FCC in the same manner as an FCC-licensed satellite through a process called “U.S. market access.” An operator of a satellite that is not licensed by the FCC can file a petition for declaratory ruling to access the U.S. market using the non-U.S.-licensed space station. The licensee of a U.S.-licensed earth station can also apply to communicate with a specific non-U.S.-licensed space station.

  4. While it is rare that alternatives to NASA’s DAS (such as ESA modeling tools or Aerospace’s AHAB) are used in FCC processes, it is up to the applicant if they wish to rely on a higher fidelity model to identify the model and address why it should be considered a higher fidelity model.

  5. Yes. Non-U.S. licensed systems must meet the requirements that the FCC applies to U.S. licensed systems, plus any additional requirements levied by licensing authorities in their home market. Specifically, non-U.S.-licensed space stations seeking market access must describe the design and operational strategies to minimize orbital debris risk. This requirement in the Commission’s rules can be satisfied by providing the same information that a U.S. license applicant would provide under the Commission’s orbital debris mitigation rules. Alternatively, a non-U.S. operator can demonstrate that debris mitigation plans for the space station(s) for which U.S. market access is requested are subject to direct and effective regulatory oversight by the national licensing authority. This demonstration requires supporting documentation including detailed information concerning the regulatory process, information reviewed by the national licensing authority, regulations and criteria utilized in reviewing debris mitigation plans, and governing law (translated into English if necessary). In instances where the same type of information is provided to the non-U.S. licensing authority, but not routinely made publicly available, the provision of those materials to the Commission can provide important supporting materials for the demonstration.

    Additionally, each Authorization Holder must certify as to the accuracy of the information provided. 

  6. New licensees and existing applicants must comply with the five-year post-mission disposal requirement if their authorized satellite is to be launched after September 29, 2024. The five-year post-mission disposal requirement applies to both U.S. licensed and non-U.S. licensed satellites. Satellites already in orbit as of September 29, 2024 are considered grandfathered, and therefore are exempt from this requirement. For any applications granted prior to September 29, 2024 involving satellites that would exceed the five-year limit, those satellites must be launched prior to September 30, 2024.

  7. The Commission appreciates updates from applicants on the status of their mission. If operators have questions about whether particular notification is necessary, we recommend reaching out to staff for clarification. The specific requirements for notification will vary depending on the type of license and the applicable rules. Experimental licenses often include a condition requiring notification.

  8. Operators must disclose the extent of the spacecraft’s maneuverability. This disclosure is relevant in determining a space station’s overall risk of collision with large objects. If an operator has the ability to and does maneuver their spacecraft effectively to avoid collisions, this risk can be assumed to be zero or near zero.  However, this assumption does not apply if evidence indicates the satellite has no maneuver capability or only a limited capability (as is the case in some instances with so-called “differential drag” maneuvers).  Key considerations in whether a maneuver capability is effective include the extent of the change in orbit that the capability can produce, and over what time period, and the adequacy of the capability to complete a maneuver within the time periods typically available for the conjunction prediction process utilized. The NASA Spacecraft Conjunction Assessment and Collision Avoidance Best Practices Handbook provides useful information for applicants in assessing their capabilities to maneuver.

  9. The Commission does not have orbital debris mitigation requirements that are specific to the moon or other planets at this time. However, operators are required to provide information in accordance with the Commission’s orbital debris rules concerning limiting release of debris, limiting explosion risk, safe flight profiles, and post-mission disposal plans. This obligation applies to all applicants, including those undertaking lunar or interplanetary missions.

  10. It depends. Operators should plan to undertake all necessary steps to ensure compliance with their ODM Plan. Departures from the ODM Plan can result in enforcement action. In the event of a potential departure from any aspect of an ODM Plan provided to the Commission, operators should immediately contact Commission Staff. In the event of departure from the ODM Plan due to a satellite failure or anomaly, the Commission will take into account all the facts and circumstances, including the assessed cause of the failure or anomaly, whether the issue was beyond the operator’s control, and any steps taken by the operator to avoid non-compliance.

Monday, February 26, 2024