Monday, May 13, 2019

AMSAT and ARRL Comment to FCC on Orbital Debris Mitigation

Both AMSAT and the ARRL have filed comments on an FCC proposal intended to address the growing issue of reducing the amount of debris in orbit. This debris poses risks to both satellites and manned space missions. The ARRL Letter reports that AMSAT claims the proposed rules would have "an extremely detrimental effect on both the Amateur Satellite Service and AMSAT's ability to launch and operate new satellites." AMSAT notes that amateur satellites typically have a longer lifespan than other small satellites and that this should be taken into account in crafting the rules. It also objected to a proposed altitude limit for low-Earth orbit satellites that it said would have made it impossible to launch several amateur satellites with elliptical orbits that otherwise meet the proposed standards.

The ARRL, commenting separately, said that while it supports efforts to reduce debris in orbit, the FCC "must tailor its regulations for the Amateur Satellite Service" and not "inadvertently impair (its) vitality by applying rules crafted for commercial satellite services."

Another sticking point is a proposed rule that would require licensees of amateur satellites to indemnify the U.S. government against any claims against it as a result of satellite operations. AMSAT says this would make it financially impossible for it or any other US entity to launch and operate amateur satellites. The ARRL agreed with this assessment in its comments.