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March 21, 2013

FCC will Provide Commercial Space Companies More Access to Valued Spectrum

By Ed Silverstein, TMCnet Contributor

The FCC’s (News - Alert) Experimental Authorization program has been expanded to commercial space flight so businesses can get more access to needed spectrum.

That’s an improvement over the current method as businesses must ask for spectrum as they need it.

“As it stands now, companies like SpaceX (News - Alert) (with its Dragon resupply missions to the ISS [International Space Station] and Falcon9 rocket launches), and XCOR Aerospace and Space Expedition Corporation (who have introduced the LINX for quick trips to space and back) must request spectrum on an as-needed basis,” TechCrunch reported. “And there are no insurances that they’ll get what they need, when they need it, to facilitate communication with these space crafts.”

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski (News - Alert) supports the new approach.

“Companies can’t launch or operate space vehicles without spectrum, and … the U.S. is leading the way in developing rules of the road for commercial space launches. Our measures to streamline processes and increase predictability will help boost U.S. leadership in the commercial space industry,” he said in an FCC statement.

Companies who want to license spectrum for space missions, can submit an application after getting an FCC registration number. The FCC wants applications sent in at least 90 days in advance of “the commercial space launch, related cargo transport activity, or ground testing activity.” Also, the Experimental Authorization grants last for six months and are renewable.

In their application, applicants should provide: frequency, power, emission, latitude and longitude coordinates of the launch site or test operations. Also, an overview of the proposed launch or testing should be included. Applicants should include the orbital parameters or range of orbital parameters in which the launch vehicle or related spacecraft will operate. If the applicant wants to operate an Earth station to communicate with the launch vehicle or spacecraft, the applicant needs to specify the frequency, power, emission, latitude and longitude coordinates for the Earth station. If the applicant is planning to communicate with an Earth station operated by another company, the United States government, or one located outside the United States, its territories and possessions, the applicant should include technical parameters of the Earth station.

Meanwhile, SpaceX has been the only private company to have flown a spacecraft in low Earth orbit and have it land back on Earth, TMCnet reported. Also, SpaceX is developing a seven-person Dragon 2 capsule. The company is also trying to get NASA’s ISS crew transportation contract, which will be offered in 2014, TMCnet added.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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