TAMPA, Fla. — Federal Communications Commission chair Jessica Rosenworcel proposed new rules May 29 to cover the risk of debris-generating accidental explosions in space.

The new rules would require applicants to assess and limit the probability of accidental explosions to less than one in a thousand for each satellite they submit for approval.

The probability metric is derived from NASA’s standard and would apply during and after the completion of mission operations.

Currently, FCC rules only require satellite licensees to affirm they have effectively mitigated the risk of debris-generating explosions in space.

While such explosions are very rare, Rosenworcel said incorporating a specific probability metric would support ongoing efforts to modernize FCC orbital debris rules to keep pace with increasingly crowded orbits.

“We can no longer afford to launch new satellites into our skies without being thoughtful about space sustainability,” she said in a statement. 

“Our orbital debris mitigation efforts will help preserve the orbital environment to protect services we rely on and allow new services to be launched.”

If approved by a majority of the FCC’s five Commissioners, the new requirement would be phased in one year after its publication in the Federal Register. It would then apply to applications filed after or still pending when the rules go into effect.

Jason Rainbow writes about satellite telecom, space finance and commercial markets for SpaceNews. He has spent more than a decade covering the global space industry as a business journalist. Previously, he was Group Editor-in-Chief for Finance Information...