Home Business FCC Fines Dish for Space Debris in Historic Action

FCC Fines Dish for Space Debris in Historic Action

FCC Fines Dish for Space Debris in Historic Action

Satellite television company Dish Network has been fined $150,000 by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for improperly disposing of one of its satellites. This is the first time that federal regulators have issued such a penalty. The FCC settled an investigation into Dish, resulting in the fine and an admission of liability from the company. Dish argues that the satellite in question was an older spacecraft that had been exempted from the FCC’s rule requiring a minimum disposal orbit.

Space debris is becoming an increasingly pressing issue for satellite operators, with an estimated 700,000 pieces of uncontrolled garbage larger than 0.4 inches in Earth’s orbit. These objects pose a risk of colliding with active satellites, the International Space Station, or other debris, increasing the risk of in-space collisions. Until recently, the satellite industry had largely self-regulated its compliance with debris mitigation recommendations. In this case, the FCC’s investigation focused on a satellite called EchoStar-7, which was launched to geostationary orbit in 2002. Dish did not leave enough fuel on board the satellite to retire it to a graveyard orbit, leaving it dead in an orbit that poses a risk to other active satellites.

The FCC’s actions signal an increased emphasis on enforcing regulations related to space debris. The responsible disposal of satellites is crucial to safeguarding communication systems and minimizing the risk of collisions in space. This case highlights the importance of adhering to post-mission disposal requirements to maintain the integrity of geostationary orbit, which is home to large, expensive telecommunications satellites operated by companies like Dish. The fine imposed on Dish Network aims to hold satellite operators accountable for their role in managing space debris and ensuring the long-term sustainability of space activities.

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