Dish Network has been ordered by the FCC to pay a fine of $150,000 for failing to move its EchoStar-7 satellite out of harm’s way. This marks the first fine issued by the FCC for space debris.
Space debris, which consists of non-functioning manmade materials floating in space, poses a threat to working infrastructure and can interfere with communication systems. The FCC has emphasized the importance of compliance with space debris rules to protect terrestrial and space-based communication systems.
Dish Network had informed the FCC in 2012 that it had a plan to relocate its EchoStar-7 satellite. However, by February, the company realized that the satellite did not have enough propellant left to complete its maneuver. As a result, the satellite was shut down at a distance of about 76 miles from Earth, where it still posed a hazard.
The failure to properly deorbit the satellite resulted in Dish Network violating the terms of its FCC license, leading to an investigation and the subsequent fine. This fine serves as a breakthrough settlement, demonstrating the FCC’s enforcement authority and capability regarding space debris rules.
The issue of space debris management is complex and ongoing. Nevertheless, the FCC’s decision to levy a fine against Dish Network sends a strong message to companies about the importance of cleaning up their space debris.