The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has imposed a $150,000 fine on DISH, a subsidiary of DISH Network, marking the FCC’s first space debris enforcement penalty.
The penalty comes as a result of DISH’s failure to properly de-orbit its EchoStar-7 satellite, which was launched in 2002. DISH has accepted liability and will follow a compliance plan, as stated by the FCC.
The FCC has recently amped up its satellite policy efforts. Enforcement Bureau Chief Loyaan Egal said that this announcement “is a breakthrough settlement, making very clear the FCC has strong enforcement authority and capability to enforce its vitally important space debris rules.”
According to the FCC, DISH relocated the EchoStar-7 satellite to a disposal orbit “well below the elevation required by the terms of its license.”
In 2012, DISH committed to bringing the satellite to an altitude of 300 kilometers above its operational geostationary arc at the end of its mission, as per an FCC-approved plan. However, in February 2022, DISH said “the satellite had very little propellant left, which meant it could not follow the original orbital debris mitigation plan in its license.”
DISH ultimately retired the satellite at a disposal orbit that fell short of the specified mitigation requirements. DISH has not yet commented on the FCC’s decision.
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