The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued its first-ever space debris enforcement fine, of $150,000 to Dish Network.
The fine was issued after the FCC deemed that Dish failed to properly de-orbit its EchoStar-7 satellite.
In a statement, the FCC revealed that Dish had accepted liability agreed to a compliance plan, and paid a penalty of $150,000.
The regulator's investigation found that the company "violated the Communications Act, the FCC rules, and the terms of the company’s license by relocating its direct broadcast satellite (“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." The FCC pointed out, that at a lower altitude, it could pose orbital debris concerns.
“As satellite operations become more prevalent and the space economy accelerates, we must be certain that operators comply with their commitments,” said Enforcement Bureau Chief Loyaan A. Egal.
“This is a breakthrough settlement, making very clear the FCC has strong enforcement authority and capability to enforce its vitally important space debris rules.”
Dish first launched its EchoStar-7 satellite in 2002.
As part of an orbital debris mitigation plan filed by Dish, and approved by the Commission in 2012, the company committed to bring the EchoStar-7 satellite to the end of its mission at an altitude of 300 kilometers (km) above its operational geostationary arc.
Dish initially 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.
But in February 2022, the company said that the satellite had very little propellant left, which meant it could not follow the original orbital debris mitigation plan in its license, meaning Dish retired the satellite at a disposal orbit approximately 122 km above the geostationary arc, well short of the disposal orbit of 300 km specified in its orbital debris mitigation plan.