Breakthrough in Space Regulations: DISH Slapped With First-Ever Debris Fine3rd Oct 2023
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued its first-ever space debris enforcement fine, requiring DISH to pay $150,000 for its failure to properly de-orbit the EchoStar-7 satellite.
Space Debris Concerns Escalate
The commission stated that the US satellite TV provider admitted liability, adding that the DISH action “could pose orbital debris concerns”.
As satellite operations become more prevalent and the space economy accelerates, we must be certain that operators comply with their commitments.” These were the words of Loyaan Egal, the FCC enforcement bureau chief.
DISH initiated the launch of the EchoStar-7 satellite back in 2002 and had scheduled its decommissioning for May 2022. However, they realized a few months before this scheduled date that the satellite did not have sufficient fuel to reach a suitable disposal location.
Dish had agreed to an “orbital debris mitigation plan” with the FCC to relocate the satellite. Instead of decommissioning the satellite at a distance of 300 kilometres from its operational geostationary orbit, DISH retired the satellite at approximately 122 kilometres away.
The FCC described this as “well short of the disposal orbit”.
Last year, the FCC introduced the “five-year rule” for satellite de-orbiting, mandating that operators with satellites in low Earth orbit dispose of them within five years of mission completion, as opposed to the previous limit of 25 years.