November is being dubbed Space Month by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and during the month they plan on voting, with the intention of approving, the spectrum license for Kepler Communications’ satellite constellation.
In a blog post Ajit Pai FCC Chairman said the “FCC will take up nine items to ensure that America leads in the New Space Age, with an emphasis on cutting through the red tape.”
To be sure this is a fine sentiment, but in reality the FCC has been moving slowly with respect to spectrum licensing for small satellite constellations. Kepler filed its application over two years ago and has been increasingly persistent in contacting the FCC to get things moving along. Kepler is working towards building a constellation of 140 small communication satellites in Low Earth Orbit. Last month Kepler secured US$16M in Series A Funding. The approval of their U.S. spectrum license is critical to their business plan. With that hurdle seemingly about to be behind them, they can focus on executing their plan without that shadow of doubt over them.
Meanwhile Kepler isn’t the only Canadian company on the FCC’s radar in November. Telesat, which had submitted it’s initial spectrum license for its small satellite constellation around the same time as Kepler, had its license approved a year ago. Subsequent filings for additional spectrum by Telesat are also on the FCC agenda in November.
Pai said in his blog “we’ll also be voting on a package of orders that would give the green light to companies seeking to roll out new and expanded services using new non-geostationary satellite constellations. Kepler is looking to create a new satellite system for the Internet of Things, and LeoSat would like to offer high-speed connectivity for enterprises and underserved communities. We’re aiming to approve both requests. And we’ve also targeted for approval the requests of SpaceX and TeleSat Canada to expand the frequencies they can use so that their fleets of low Earth orbit satellites can offer even better broadband service.”
The FCC will also tackle issues with Global Positioning System (GPS), allowing Americans to use the European Galileo system. Also on tap are policy changes for Earth Stations in Motion (ESIMs) allowing for “expanded opportunities.”
Pai also said they are looking at another policy objective to “create a new unified license for space stations and earth stations operating in a geostationary, fixed-satellite service satellite network.” Along with that change another proposal on the agenda “would update our rules governing direct broadcast satellite service so that it too could benefit from the streamlining of our rules for launching satellite service in other bands.”
And lastly orbital debris is the on agenda. The FCC will conduct a comprehensive review of the Commission’s orbital debris rules. This would be the first review since they were adopted in 2004 and a lot has changed since then. The focus would be “to improve and clarify these rules based on improvements in mitigation practices, and to address recent market developments.”