Space Briefing Book:
U.S. Space Regulations
Written by: Space Foundation Editorial Team
Among U.S. regulations with a space nexus are those concerning the commercial space sector.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) grants licenses for commercial satellite communication, dictating which band of the electromagnetic spectrum a satellite can use. Spectrum assignments are co-managed with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
The FAA’s regulations on commercial spaceflight cover the “authorization and supervision” of any U.S. organization or citizen conducting space endeavors. It requires commercial missions to receive a license to launch (and re-enter), and it also requires licenses for commercial spaceports. It does not apply to government agencies, like NASA.
ITAR restricts the export of technology and data related to national security. In 2014, ITAR export restrictions were loosened for 36 countries and satellite components were largely moved to the Commercial Control List. The U.S. State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, directs ITAR restrictions and licensing.
The Department of Commerce’s EAR regulate technologies and data whose commercial export could lead to military applications by other nations. The Commerce Control List details the types of technologies that require a license to be exported, which includes components related to spacecraft, satellites, launch systems and other space-focused technologies.
The Department of Commerce rule adjusts the licensing process for private U.S. satellite remote sensing systems by: eliminating many restrictions on how the systems may be operated; prohibiting government from imposing conditions after a license is issued; and considering remote sensing data planned or available when assessing whether conditions should be applied to U.S. licensees.