FCC to Starlink’s objectors: “No change in decision”
June 1, 2021
A slew of objectors is grumbling to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) about Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite system.
We have reported on Viasat’s complaints, but SES, Hughes Network and others are also arguing for the FCC to either suspend or modify its April 27th permission for SpaceX/Starlink to alter their orbital plans.
Some of the complaints focus on alleged environmental threats to the Earth’s atmosphere or the light pollution to the night sky. Others are concerned about frequency interference.
Arianespace has also written saying that it does not want the ‘Wild West’ to occur in space. “It really is our responsibility to ensure that low orbit (less than 1,000 kilometres or 625 miles) above the Earth is sustainable long-term,” CEO Stéphane Israël told a UN-sponsored sustainable space development conference in Geneva. “SpaceX has already deployed 1,677 satellites for Starlink, which means that today, of all satellites in operation, 35 per cent belong to one man – Elon Musk”, Israël continued, “And if you include satellites of more than 50 kilograms, that’s more than 50 per cent.”
Israël stressed that, seeing the risks of several satellite near-collisions in recent years, that “very quickly, we could find ourselves in a catastrophic scenario that would render this orbit impractical”.
Viasat’s complaint asks for a suspension of SpaceX activity pending an examination of the alleged environmental problems.
The FCC, however, says that “after considering the record and claims… we conclude that the issues raised do not justify the need for an [Environmental Assessment].” The FCC adds that it will continue to monitor the situation as regards light pollution.
Viasat is now taking the matter into the courts on the basis that the FCC has a legal obligation to assess SpaceX’s environmental impact prior to permitting expansion to Starlink’s numbers and orbital heights.
Viasat demanded a response from the FCC by June 1st and said that if there were no response, it would place the matter into the hands of the court, and arguing that the FCC’s permit be vacated for failing to comply with a NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) assessment.