MERIDIAN (dpa-AFX) - In a first, the Federal Communications Commission or FCC has issued a penalty related to space debris to Dish Network Corp. for failure to properly deorbit its EchoStar-7 satellite.
The FCC said its Enforcement Bureau has reached a breakthrough settlement of its investigation into DISH, which admitted its liability for failing to properly dispose of the EchoStar-7 broadcast communications satellite. The satellite television company has agreed to pay $150,000 in penalty.
As per the FCC investigation, the company violated the Communications Act, the FCC rules, and the terms of the company's license. The firm relocated its direct broadcast satellite or DBS service EchoStar-7 satellite at the satellite's end-of-mission to a disposal orbit well below the elevation required by the terms of its license. At this lower altitude, it could pose orbital debris concerns, the Commission noted.
It was in 2002 that DISH launched its EchoStar-7 satellite. In DISH's orbital debris mitigation plan, which was approved by the Commission in 2012, the company committed to bring the satellite at the end of its mission to an altitude of 300 kilometers above its operational geostationary arc.
In subsequent filings with the FCC, DISH estimated that, based on the remaining fuel and projected operational parameters, the satellite's end-of-mission deorbit maneuvers would take place in May 2022.
However, in February 2022, the company determined that the satellite had very little propellant left, and could not follow the original orbital debris mitigation plan in its license.
DISH ultimately retired the satellite at a disposal orbit around 122 km above the geostationary arc, which was well short of the disposal orbit of 300 km specified in its orbital debris mitigation plan.
The latest move comes as the Commission has stepped up its satellite policy efforts, including establishing the Space Bureau and implementing its Space Innovation Agenda.
FCC said its rules prohibit the use or operation of any apparatus for the transmission of energy or communications or signals by a space or earth station except under and in accordance with a Commission-granted authorization.
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