FCC to revise rules on getting rid of space junk

FCC to revise rules on getting rid of space junk

The Federal Communications Commission FCC said it would start a process to revise decades-old rules on getting rid of space junk.

In a release, it said that the inquiry would look into satellite refueling, inspecting and repairing in-orbit spacecraft, capturing and removing debris and transforming materials through manufacturing while in space.

The agency chairwoman, Jessica Rosenworcel, told reporters Friday after a unanimous 4 -- 0 FCC vote that rules currently in place were largely built for another era. Rosenworcel said the FCC needs to make sure rules are prepared for the proliferation of satellites in orbit and new activities in our higher altitudes. The leader said that the FCC is focusing on in-space servicing, assembly and manufacturing of ISAM Today s action continues this modernization effort, as in-space servicing, assembly and manufacturing capabilities or ISAM can create new jobs, mitigate climate change and advance America's economic, scientific, technological and national security interests.

It noted that steps are being taken to update satellite rules and adopt new rules to assist satellite launch companies, giving them access to spectrum for transmissions from space launch vehicles during pre-launch testing and space launch operations. The proceeding will examine the spectrum needs of these missions, the implications on the FCC's orbital debris rules and any unique regulatory issues that arise due to ISAM activities beyond the Earth's orbit.

More than 27,000 pieces of orbital debris are tracked by the Department of Defense's global Space Surveillance Network SSN sensors, according to NASA.

Much more debris exists in the near-Earth space environment, but is too small to be tracked.

Since both debris and spacecraft are traveling at extremely high speeds approximately 15,700 mph in low Earth orbit, an impact of even a tiny piece of orbital debris with a spacecraft could cause big problems, the agency said.