FCC Approves New Ring of Satellites

The FCC has approved another constellation of low-earth orbit satellites it hopes can provide some competition in the data-delivery space.

The commission voted unanimously to allow Theia Holdings to build, launch and operate the satellites to provide high-resolution earth imaging in the U.S. and around the world.

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Theia plans a ring of 112 non-geostationary satellites, which the FCC says it can use for fixed satellite or earth exploration services.

That follows the approvals in the past year and a half, of similar constellations proposed by OneWeb, SpaceX and others (SpaceNorway, Kepler).

For example, the commission in November 2018 approved SpaceX's application to deploy constellations of non-geostationary orbit constellations of satellites to deploy and operate a worldwide broadband delivery service.

While the vote was unanimous, there was some concern expressed about the number of satellites orbiting the earth and the potential debris field issues.

“In the past year, the Federal Communications Commission has approved over 13,000 new satellites for launch," pointed out Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. "[I]ncreasing the number of satellites in orbit like this brings new challenges. Chief among them is that the growing amount of debris in orbit could make some regions of space unusable for decades to come.”

She pushed the Republican majority to come up with a plan for mitigating potential collisions, including coordinating with other agencies.

Commissioner Brendan Carr was also concerned about debris, but said he was not sure the FCC was the right agency to be dealing with that issue.

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.