Fri. Sep 29th, 2023
SpaceX Urges FCC to Implement New Rules for Satellite Application Processing

SpaceX has urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to implement new rules for processing satellite applications in order to speed up the development of its Starlink project. The company made this request during meetings with the US regulator, as stated in a SpaceX FCC filing. SpaceX argues that the proposed small changes, which have significant support, would have substantial benefits for consumers and American space leadership.

One specific change that SpaceX seeks is the removal of an FCC rule that requires the company to file applications for even the smallest changes to the mass, size, and physical characteristics of its satellite system, regardless of whether those changes would reduce collision risk. SpaceX claims that enforcing this rule would burden the FCC with more paperwork and hinder companies from quickly adding beneficial upgrades to their satellites. SpaceX itself wishes to upgrade its first-generation Starlink satellite constellation with improved hardware.

SpaceX’s request comes ahead of an FCC vote on new rules meant to expedite satellite application processing, scheduled for September 21. These new rules aim to eliminate unnecessary procedures and establish timelines for the FCC to determine whether a satellite application is acceptable for filing or requires further vetting.

While SpaceX supports the FCC’s current proposal, the company wants the commission to go further by adopting its suggestions. This includes enforcing definitive deadlines for reviewing and taking action on satellite applications, known as “shot clocks,” to prevent regulatory delays. The company highlights multi-year application processing delays and the negative impact they have on the industry, causing uncertainty for both large and small satellite operators.

SpaceX emphasizes that the backlog of satellite applications creates “cascading harms throughout the industry,” resulting in slower and fewer next-generation satellite system deployments, less innovation, and decreased competition. The FCC has yet to respond to the request for comment. However, FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel is aware of the backlog of satellite applications and has expressed the need for streamlining the process to address the current situation. In response, the FCC established the Space Bureau in April to handle the overwhelming number of satellite applications.

In addition to the upcoming vote on new rules, the FCC has stated its intention to consider further streamlining for satellite applications in future proceedings.