FCC to discuss the Allocation of Spectrum soon in favor of commercial launches

After a long wait, there is hope for commercial launches’ service providers may soon have a reason to celebrate. The hope comes after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plans to discuss the issue to set aside a dedicated spectrum band for commercial launches exclusively. Its acting chairperson Jessica Rosenworcel announced it on 31st March in a statement stating that it would be one of its agendas in the next meeting set on 21st April this year. At the moment, the S-band spectrum is set aside for use by the government.

On the other hand, the proposal is considering allocating the spectrum to crucial launches for their telemetry. As of now, the commercial launches still have a dedicated brand ranging from 2200 to 2290 MHz. However, its usage is demanding to the extent that the launch operators need to apply for an STA, Special Temporary Authority. Sometimes, the service providers need to get the STA two months before the actual launch day. An excellent example is Astra that applied for an STA with FCC on 30th March. Interestingly, the small launch vehicle delivery has scheduled its orbital launch test for1st August, if not later.

As far as Rosenworcel is concerned, the growth of the commercial launches is snowballing. Unfortunately, rules and regulations don’t match this rapid revolution. However, she believes that such policies that are transparent and predictable will be good for this sector. The commission’s announcement put smiles on many, including the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) and other industry groups. CFC president Karina Drees says that it started working on resolving this issue with its members a long time ago. Therefore, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for them is a huge encouragement. She also added how eager she is together with the CSF at large to work with the commission. Karina believes that working with FCC could see the advancements of solutions that are both appropriate and prompt.

It has been a journey for commercial launch providers, no doubt. The first published notice of the proposal was b FCC in 2013. The matter was put to rest unresolved since the government extensively used the band at the time. Being heavily used coupled with the proposed rapid growth in the commercial launch industry didn’t make it easy.

By 2019, the sector had, to some extent, reached its growth potential. That’s when Eric Stallmer, who was serving as the CSF president, raised the issue again. Later on, in November 2020, five companies, including Virgin Orbit, SpaceX, Sierra Nevada Corporation, Relativity Space, and Blue Origin, revisited the matter. It is expected to be discussed on 21st April during the FCC’s meeting.

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