First space fine imposed for “improperly deorbited satellite”
October 6, 2023

First space fine imposed for “improperly deorbited satellite”

Satellite TV provider DISH will have to pay $150,000 for improperly deorbiting its EchoStar-7 space satellite, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced. It is also the first time in history that someone (on Earth) has been fined for space debris, which is actually the first space fine.

The provider admitted responsibility, the commission said, adding that its action could raise concerns about orbital debris. The FCC goes on to add that the agreement is a “breakthrough solution” in the area of ​​space debris that is increasingly worrying scientists. Debris has been brought into space by governments and companies launching satellites into orbit at an unprecedented rate.

“As satellite operations become more prevalent and the space economy accelerates, we need to make sure that operators comply with their obligations,” said Lojan Igal, one of the FCC's chiefs.

Satellite TV provider DISH launched its satellite into space back in 2002 and planned to decommission it in May 2022. However, a few months before that, DISH discovered that the satellite did not have enough fuel to navigate to a disposal site from orbit, writes SkyNews.

Instead of deorbiting the satellite 300 kilometers from the place where it worked in geostationary orbit, DISH sent it to a distance of about 122 km. The commission described it as far from the orbit of delay. The previous year, the FCC adopted a new “five-year rule” for deorbiting satellites, forcing operators with low-Earth orbit satellites to ensure they properly dispose of them within half a decade after the satellite missions end.

The previous limit was 25 years, but given that space debris is accumulating more and more, we are now witnessing the first fines for improper behavior in space.