Dish Settles FCC Orbital Debris Investigation

Dish Network satellite dish
(Image credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Satellite-TV provider Dish Network has admitted liability and agreed to pay a $150,000 penalty for failure to properly de-orbit its EchoStar-7 direct-broadcast satellite, according to the FCC, which said it was the first enforcement action under its space debris policy.

The settlement avoids a possible Federal Communications Commission hearing on whether Dish has the basic qualifications to hold a license.

Dish put the satellite into a “disposal orbit” below that required by its FCC license, according to the FCC Enforcement Bureau. The reason was that the satellite, which was launched in 2002, ran out of fuel and could not follow its disposal plan of an orbit 300 Km above the Earth, instead dropping to 122 Km, well short of its debris mitigation plan.

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“This is a breakthrough settlement, making very clear the FCC has strong enforcement authority and capability to enforce its vitally important space debris rules," Enforcement Bureau chief Loyaan A. Egal said.

In 2020, the FCC updated its orbital debris rules to help satellite operators do a better job of taking out the space trash, or at least mitigating its impact.

The update was necessitated, in part, by the FCC’s approval of constellations — sometimes thousands — of smaller satellites to provide competitive internet access services.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.