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From satellite fleet operators, a plea for more regulation of satellite mega-constellations

From satellite fleet operators, a plea for more regulation of satellite mega-constellations

Current and prospective satellite fleet operators are asking for regulatory oversight to prevent frequency interference and mitigate orbital debris and in-orbit collisions. Credit: ITU
Current and prospective satellite fleet operators are asking for regulatory oversight to prevent frequency interference and mitigate orbital debris and in-orbit collisions. Credit: ITU

BREMEN, Germany — Current and prospective satellite fleet operators on Oct. 25 made their case to the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee for how the U.S. government might help, or at least not hinder, their business.

Each of them — SpaceX, OneWeb, ViaSat and Intelsat — had a separate story, but there was at least one common plea: The industry needs more regulation.

SpaceX Satellite Government Affairs Vice President Patricia Cooper urged regulations on satellite design and deorbit requirements to mitigate the threat of mega-constellations’ creating space debris.

OneWeb Executive Chairman Greg Wyler asked for regulations to force mega-constellations to use different orbits spaced at least 125 kilometers apart to prevent a cascade effect if a satellite from one of them fails.

OneWeb to SpaceX: Keep your distance

SpaceX’s 4,426-satellite constellation is planned to operate in 83 orbital planes between 1,110 kilometers and 1,325 kilometers. Wyler said OneWeb steered clear of previously licensed low-orbiting constellations’ orbits, and asked for regulations to force those coming after OneWeb in the regulatory queue to do likewise.

Wyler also expressed surprise that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has decided to allow mega-constellations to self-certify that they are respecting guidelines on frequency non-interference.

ViaSat Chief Executive Mark D. Dankberg did not address that last point, perhaps surprisingly, since ViaSat’s geostationary-orbit satellites are as much susceptible to non-GEO frequency interference as anyone.

Dankberg focused his remarks on ViaSat’s past willingness to share radio spectrum with terrestrial 5G wireless operators at 28 GHz, and its concern that the FCC now wants to reallocate 47-52 GHz “almost exclusively” to 5G.

“The problem is not in accommodating 5G, it’s in taking spectrum away from competitive satellite services and creating exclusivity by regulation,” Dankberg said.

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November 7, 2017


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