New FCC Regs for Commercial Spaceflight Communications

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued new guidance March 15 for commercial spaceflight companies wishing to use radio frequencies allocated exclusively for use by NASA and other federal agencies.

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation, a Washington trade organization representing Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) and other companies vying to send people and payloads into space on behalf of NASA and other customers, applauded the FCC’s announcement.

“The FCC has recognized the potential of the U.S. commercial spaceflight industry by streamlining the process of obtaining authorization to use radio frequencies during commercial launches,” Commercial Spaceflight Federation President Michael Lopez-Alegria said in a March 18 statement.

“In so doing, they have expressed their support for the commercial space sector. I commend the FCC for taking this step and I look forward to working with the Commission to continue to create a welcoming regulatory environment for this new and promising high-tech industry.”

The FCC’s new guidance outlines the steps commercial operators such as SpaceX, which launched its second paid cargo run to the international space station March 1, must take to obtain permission to use government-only spectrum for operational communications during launch, cargo delivery and spacecraft re-entry.

The March 15 public notice the FCC posted on its website outlines the steps SpaceX, Orbital Sciences Corp., and others must follow to apply for Experimental Authorization to use the government-only spectrum on a temporary, non-interference basis.