FCC Establishes Space Bureau to Strengthen Orbit Regulation

The FCC, responsible for telecommunications and internet regulations, is establishing a new bureau dedicated to space regulation by voting in favor of its creation.

The FCC’s bureaus specialize in various industries, such as media, wireless and consumer. Their experts research and create the agency’s rules and advisories.

The Space Bureau will take over responsibilities for satellite approval, orbital communications, space debris and more. The new structure enables the agency to deliver these services more effectively.

“The satellite industry is booming, but our licensing regulations haven’t kept pace,” said Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “We’re taking action to change that.”

The FCC voted unanimously today to create a new bureau, which is essentially an upgrade of the current International Bureau. Although additional approvals from Congress and other formalities are needed before it’s finalized, desk-moving and chat channel setup have already begun.

The FCC stated: “This order…”

Under this reorganization, the Space Bureau will promote a competitive and innovative global telecommunications marketplace via space services. The Space Bureau will do so by undertaking policy analysis and rulemakings as well as authorizing satellite systems for the purpose of facilitating the deployment of satellite services, streamlining regulatory processes and maximizing flexibility for operators to meet customer needs, and fostering the efficient use of spectrum and orbital resources. The Space Bureau will also serve as a focal point for coordination with other U.S. government agencies on matters of space policy and governance, and will support the Office of International Affairs for meetings with other countries, international organizations and foreign government officials that involve space policy matters.

The Space Bureau will promote a competitive and innovative global telecommunications marketplace via space services by undertaking policy analysis and rulemakings, authorizing satellite systems, streamlining regulatory processes to maximize flexibility for operators, fostering efficient use of spectrum/orbital resources, coordinating with other US gov’t agencies on matters of space policy & governance and supporting the Office of International Affairs for meetings with other countries.

The FCC’s regulation of space may seem odd, but it makes perfect sense: the agency oversees transmissions—especially interstate ones, which includes internet data—and satellites send a lot of it. With hundreds to thousands being launched annually they are one of the most rapidly expanding sources.

The FCC is the best agency for ensuring orbital platforms and surface communications don’t clash, with the FAA, NASA, and Pentagon also playing a role. Yet how much power they possess remains uncertain.

Until recently, space was a niche in their work. Now they’re managing satellite approval applications from hundreds of organizations and research centers, administrating spectrum for thousands of Comsats, and ensuring wireless traffic doesn’t interfere with vital communication. Then there’s the issue of space debris – another important story altogether.

The FCC is making sense to build out a space-focused bureau that will negotiate and cooperate with other countries, the same job of their International Bureau. In the coming months, we’ll get more updates on its progress.

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Kira Kim

Kira Kim is a science journalist with a background in biology and a passion for environmental issues. She is known for her clear and concise writing, as well as her ability to bring complex scientific concepts to life for a general audience.

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