The commercial space-based remote sensing satellite industry is flourishing, with high-resolution optical satellites offering 0.25m imagery, the ability to image the entire Earth at one meter resolution daily, improved weather forecasting through GPS radio occultation, radio frequency mapping, and commercial availability of Synthetic Aperture Radar. These innovations are having a positive impact on the world, providing the public with valuable insights and enabling the important missions of the U.S. civil and defense space agencies (public/private partnerships).
While the U.S. government has made marked improvement in land remote sensing licensing times, licensing coordination timelines and restrictions on service offerings remain a major barrier to continued U.S. competitiveness in this industry. Lengthy bureaucratic processes have greatly impacted the ability of companies attempting to offer innovative services to get licenses, in some cases with applications on hold indefinitely.
Space science spectrum allocations are predominantly Federal only uses. As a result, innovative smallsat companies must coordinate spectrum access with the U.S. Federal spectrum users, prior to obtaining an FCC license, rather than after securing an FCC license. The coordination process requires many months, if not years, to finalize, jeopardizing funding for satellite companies and incentivizing innovative companies to license offshore.
SIA and its smallsat member companies believe that either (i) a small amount of spectrum should be designated as a “sharing sandbox” or “exclusive commercial zone” to allow smallsat companies to flourish in the U.S. so that the U.S. can build upon the critical capabilities provided by small satellites and/or (ii) the coordination process should be altered in bands shared between commercial and Federal earth observation or remote sensing users to provide an accelerated and more predictable process.