FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel circulated a proposal among her colleagues for a vote to provide more spectrum to U.S. commercial space launches. Currently, the S-band frequencies used to support space launches are allocated exclusively for federal agency use. Private space travel and satellite launch companies need to seek special temporary authority from the FCC for each launch.
“With the support of the FCC, 2021 is shaping up to be a record-setting year for commercial space launches,” said Rosenworcel, noting the U.S. launched 39 rockets into orbit last year, up from just seven in 2012. “However, despite the revolutionary activity in our atmosphere, the regulatory frameworks we rely on to support these efforts are dated.”
Rosenworcel proposed caving out frequencies in the 2.2 GHz to 2.29 GHz band for commercial space launches. She notes the plan would lead to “predictable and transparent rules” to support a growing industry. Indeed, companies like SpaceX and OneWeb are launching low-earth orbit satellites to provide global broadband. And Amazon Web Services recently announced a new space startup assistance program set to take place in June, according to CNBC.
The proposed Report and Order circulated would, if adopted at this month’s meeting, add a non-federal, secondary allocation in the band. The new allocation would limit use of the band to transmissions from space launch vehicles during pre-launch testing and space launch operations.
The proposal also includes a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to establish technical and service rules to support a more consistent licensing process.