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FCC Guidance On Radio For Commercial Space Operations Falls Short

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the moving-at-the-speed-of-government dept.

Communications 48

RocketAcademy writes "The Federal Communications Commission has issued a Public Notice to help commercial space companies obtain use of communications frequencies for launch, operations, and reentry. Commercial space companies can obtain the use of government frequencies on a temporary, non-interference basis through the FCC's Experimental Authorization process. Experimental Authorizations are valid for a six-month period from the date of grant and are renewable, but applicants must obtain a new authorization for each launch and must apply 90 days in advance. Unfortunately, this requirement does not meet the needs of suborbital launch providers who expect to fly several times per day and schedule launches as needed, on very short notice."

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USA (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43192807)

The Ancient Egyptians were plagued by locusts that consumed all their resources and destroyed their crops while producing nothing of value.

The USA has the Baby Boomers.

Is it too late to trade?

We're the Government (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43192833)

and we're here to "help" you.

FCC is here to screw you (0, Troll)

fyngyrz (762201) | about a year ago | (#43192983)

The FCC has never helped anyone in licensing the airwaves other than deep pocket (usually commercial) interests. They literally stole the entire spectrum for nothing, and then sold it off at prices no ordinary citizen could ever afford. Some bones, carefully neutered to be of little use in mass communication, were thrown: citizens band and amateur radio. Both forbid broadcast use, meaning one-to-many-unspecified listeners, both forbid transmission of music (even if it's your own, which is bizarre to say the least.)

The FCC is an object lesson in the perils of out of control government. Current-policy (no pun intended) FCC apologists are object lessons in people who don't understand liberty or broadcast technology.

What would be fair? Perhaps half of the broadcast bands given to the people, half to commercial interests.

Preemptive strike: Apologists argue that letting the public broadcast when and where they want would be chaos. I simply point you to the AM bands at night; propagation being what it is, only strong local stations or "clear channel" stations can be reliably received, while sections of the band without these fade from one signal to the next in an unending (and frankly, entertaining) medley of opinions, music, news, and so forth. Both the AM broadcast industry and the public have, somehow, survived this admittedly chaotic nightly onslaught. I expect the same would be true if you drove around town and heard different stations as you traveled in the day.

Nope. (4, Insightful)

Gazoogleheimer (1466831) | about a year ago | (#43193057)

The FCC, while perhaps not being as enthusiastic as I would like, has stood up for consumers against Congress and their lobbyists' wills repeatedly lately, and the spectrum auction helped fund an underfunded agency -- while making sure those that purchased the spectrum would seriously use it. The huge sums of money were a drop in the bucket for those wireless companies.

With the Internet, you have no reason to broadcast music; regardless, new changes in LPFM have made it easier than ever to get a non-profit radio station, particularly in rural areas. I am a DJ at a radio station in Cleveland, OH that was given to the people, as our fees are virtually nothing compared to commercial stations. We give back by offering diverse programming (no top 40 allowed!)

You want everything, but don't realize that this shared resource can't be decided by the selfish. The system has worked, continues to work, and will work in the future. I just suggest against biting the hand that feeds you!

These commercial kids also need to learn planning and contingencies.

Re:Nope. (2)

fyngyrz (762201) | about a year ago | (#43193339)

Oh, please. LPFM is virtually unavailable. Openings anywhere anyone can hear you are so rare as to be irrelevant, and the LP part ensures that should you get one of the rare licenses granted in a rural area, no one will hear you. Even if they did, there are severe limits for LPFM station applications [] and the practical result of commercial stations having got there first (way first!) in non-rural areas is that you aren't even slightly likely to get any of that precious neighboring airspace.

In other words, you want to run a 100 watt or 10 watt station, you almost certainly can't. It's a sop, not any kind of equal footing or honest offering.

You want everything, but don't realize that this shared resource can't be decided by the selfish.

No, I want something, not everything, and I realize already that this resource is (a) not shared and (b) entirely controlled by the selfish, and (c) that you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about.

As I pointed out to you, the AM band demonstrates that these resources can, in fact, be shared, and no particular earth shaking problems result. What you have right now is essentially no sharing with the public; just between commercial entities. I maintain that is unfair, imbalanced, and downright abusive of the public. It's an intentional muzzle, and WRT the principles of liberty, it's downright evil.


Re:Nope. (3, Informative)

slimjim8094 (941042) | about a year ago | (#43194103)

AM doesn't suffer from the capture effect [] . The "range" of a low-power "highway advisory" [] type station is limited because in order to clearly hear the low-power station, you need a strong enough signal that the main user of that frequency is completely overpowered. This limits the range, and "transition" is linear (the further you get, the more you hear the main user). By comparison, if one FM signal is stronger than another by even a bit, that's *all* you hear. Furthermore if there are periodic changes in which signal is the strongest in a fringe area, it's extremely disruptive because there's an abrupt transition back and forth - not a gentle fading. So the fact that the AM band is full of crap that doesn't seem to affect things doesn't prove very much.

Furthermore, it appears that the FCC has always supported LPFM just as GP claims. The Congress made it more difficult for stations to be licensed in 2000 (of that legislation: "Basically, this act shifts policy making from the FCC to Congress, which was considered an insult against the FCC."), but since then there's been a shift back to making it easier. You should update your arguments. Federal Communications Commission Chair Julius Genachowski said, "Low power FM stations are small, but they make a giant contribution to local community programming. This important law eliminates the unnecessary restrictions that kept these local stations off the air in cities and towns across the country." []

Re:Nope. (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | about a year ago | (#43195491)

So the fact that the AM band is full of crap that doesn't seem to affect things doesn't prove very much.

You have in no way made this point. The fact that the AM band is full of stations fading in and out all night does, in fact, just as I say, prove that broadcast stations can exist -- even under commercial pressures -- in the face of competing signals they cannot control. The technical basis for the signals competing randomly is completely irrelevant; the single fact that they do is what makes my argument -- and destroys the one where people claim that the FCC prevents the "chaos" of people running low power AM stations anywhere they want. The FCC only prevents the people -- that is, those without deep pockets -- from putting an AM station on the air. FM is different, but not in a bad way. A non-mobile audience will enjoy a relatively stable selection of stations. Mobile users don't (but this is no different from now, except they'd have a lot more variety.)

Now, as to LPFM: It is not easily available; it never has been. It remains extremely expensive (although I grant you, much less than a "real" station), subject to all manner of restrictions (I'm not talking RF now, I'm talking about where you live, how long you've been there, what you do, your on air hours, what organization you represent, when they open and close the limited grant mechanism, and so forth.) Even were you to live in a "gimme" area, like a rural town with only one radio station, that's still no assurance that you'll be allowed to fire up an LPFM station, even if you're willing and able to jump through the ridiculous, almost endless, hoops. it is a sop.

since then there's been a shift back to making it easier

It is easier to jump off a bridge than it is to walk into a fire. Neither one, however, is actually "easy." Let me explain to you what "easy" is in this context: One... I invest about $100 in radio transmission equipment. Only spending that much because I want a good quality signal without spurs, otherwise I'd build it out of old junk for nothing. Maybe I even go nuts and use SDR tech, spend a couple hundred bucks and create the Immaculate Signal. Two, I string a wire, and trim it to a precise length resulting in the lowest possible SWR. Cost, perhaps $10.00. Three... I'm on the bloody air. Perhaps I drive the station with my iPad, or my computer, or a turntable, a one op-amp mixer and a microphone. Perhaps I hook it to my CD changer and call it good. That is easy. The FCC and it's tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars of requirements and the lawyers and the forms and dealing with dead eyed bureaucrats... that is not easy. Nor, other than the FCC's power grab in proxy for the corporations, is it in any way necessary.

Re:Nope. (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | about a year ago | (#43193393)

With the Internet, you have no reason to broadcast music

Far less of the country (hell, the world) is hooked permanently or easily to the Internet than can reliably access it. Even were this not the case, broadcast content is significantly different from connected content in cost to the listener, accessibility, limits, restrictions, coverage, locality and so on. You really need to take some basic communications courses.

Re:Nope. (1)

Shirley Marquez (1753714) | about a year ago | (#43200929)

LPFM licenses are readily available in places that have insufficient population density to support a station. Anywhere that enough people live to make a station viable, you can't get a license. Catch-22.

Re:FCC is here to screw you (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43193071)

My Ku-band ELS license cost next to nothing and is good for two or three years. It wasn't hard to file.

Re:FCC is here to screw you (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | about a year ago | (#43193341)

...and it is worth next to nothing. What's your point?

Re:FCC is here to screw you (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43194333)

Umm, I use it to control LEO spacecraft in uplink, you douche nozzle.

Would you care to pull your fingers out of your rectum?

Wrong application (4, Insightful)

Brett Buck (811747) | about a year ago | (#43192905)

Call it an airplane, get an aircraft RT license and license the pilots. It *is* an airplane, it's not really a spacecraft since it's at most, a hop.

        In any case, no one is coming close to doing multiple flights A MONTH, much less multiple flights a day.

Re:Wrong application (2)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year ago | (#43193387)

It *is* an airplane, it's not really a spacecraft since it's at most, a hop.

An airplane is defined as "a heavier-than-air aircraft kept aloft by the upward thrust exerted by the passing air on its fixed wings and driven by propellers, jet propulsion, etc." If any portion of your flight profile includes a portion where the control surfaces of the wings are ineffectual or lift is generated by means other than air passing over the wings, it is not an airplane.

I'm sorry, it was a really good idea, but wordipulation will not avail you here. Gandalf said so. In other news, an experimental aircraft license does not allow passengers or cargo. You can't do commercial flights in an experimental airplane.

Re:Wrong application (1)

slimjim8094 (941042) | about a year ago | (#43193483)

Yeah, but this is for the FCC, not the FAA, so the specific means of propulsion isn't obviously relevant. The "experimental aircraft license" note nor the commercial/noncommercial distinction certainly isn't relevant, and I can't find any explicit language one way or another that says whether a space flight could or couldn't use air-band frequencies legally. There may in fact be some, but it doesn't seem like that's what you were talking about.

Re:Wrong application (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year ago | (#43193593)

There may in fact be some, but it doesn't seem like that's what you were talking about.

Those frequencies can't be used except by licensed pilots. That's why the OP suggested getting an airplane license; It would then allow the use of those frequencies legally. However, getting that license means you have to be flying an airplane, not a space ship. It was a not-so-clever attempt at bypassing existing regulations in an attempt to achieve the objective: Access to wireless communications necessary for safe flight.

That particular approach is flawed; At least based on present-day law, it cannot succeed.

Um, that's why it's experimental. (3, Insightful)

slimjim8094 (941042) | about a year ago | (#43192985)

Rather than guesstimating a timeframe for when these "suborbital launch providers" might in theory potentially begin "fly[ing] several times per day", they're allowing for current needs without over-provisioning or over-promising. They're already being forward looking with these rules, so presumably when needs change, or are about to change, they'll adjust them to meet the upcoming requirements.

Troll article is troll

Re:Um, that's why it's experimental. (2)

RocketAcademy (2708739) | about a year ago | (#43193237)

Instead of "guesstimating a timeframe ," they could simply ask.

It's not like rocket companies have unlisted phone numbers or won't take a phone call from the FCC.

There's already a mechanism: the MOU (2)

erikscott (1360245) | about a year ago | (#43194597)

Civilians can use govt/military spectrum under a Memorandum of Understanding between them and the agency, and a copy of that MOU is supposed to get sent on to the National Telecommunications Infrastructure Agency - the FCC for Federal Agencies, in effect. This is how privately owned stream gauges get operated on NOAA frequencies around 169 MHz and how privately-owned nuclear power plants use the SHARES shortwave network on federal frequencies. And have for decades. This is totally a non-problem.

Dedicated worldwide spectrum is hard to get (2, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | about a year ago | (#43193001)

It's hard because the space guys want exclusive use of a chunk of spectrum over most of the planet. Then they don't use it that often.

If there was enough space travel to justify it, there would be something like Aeronautical Radio, Inc. to handle it, with ground stations used by many parties. Or Iridium would offer links that were aimed at other directions than the ground. Commercial space isn't big enough yet to justify the investment.

Re:Dedicated worldwide spectrum is hard to get (3, Interesting)

Teancum (67324) | about a year ago | (#43193555)

I would generally agree with your assessment, other than the fact that there are many commercial operators planning on getting into the game real soon with much more frequent flights than has been the case in the past. By far and away most of those flights are going to be sub-orbital (typically only going to 100 km in altitude) and the bulk of these flights will even be working with air traffic in some fashion or another.

Orbital spacecraft are going to be a much tougher problem, particularly for things like nanosatellites. They will be using that spectrum for prolonged periods of time (years at a time or longer), and if there are crews in spacecraft like a Bigelow module or some other "orbital hotel", they may even need a global "clear channel" of some sort.

Allowing everybody to have the luxury of a global clear channel communications link like the Apollo astronauts enjoyed in the 1960's isn't going to be possible if large numbers of people start using space and seek their own "private communications channel". It will be interesting to see how this will all work out, and I don't think there is a single realistic solution to this mess but rather a whole bunch of compromises and even rethinking how communications between ground stations and spacecraft will take place in the coming decades.

Re:Dedicated worldwide spectrum is hard to get (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43196499)

So, we have a lot of users making short transmissions and a limited range of channels. This sounds like a case for packet-switched communications if ever there was one.

Re:Dedicated worldwide spectrum is hard to get (1)

Teancum (67324) | about a year ago | (#43197213)

That may be one solution. That is assuming that the users are making "short transmissions", as there will be a demand for bandwidth as well as just frequencies.

Re:Dedicated worldwide spectrum is hard to get (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43194249)

It is NOT hard to get - go look at Part 2 of the FCC Rules and Regulations, which delineates the use of every kHz of spectrum
from DC (well, 9kHz, close enough!) to daylight. You will find plenty of spectrum labelled "space-to-earth" and "earth-to-space".

Then go look at the equivalent document(s) from the ITU - there is gobs of spectrum available.

Problem really is that Uncle Sam (meaning the Pentagon) has usurped a lot of it. And, a lot of it is above 10GHz, so it's trickier
and more expensive to exploit than S-Band. How sad, too bad...

Maybe if we stopped wasting spectrum on teenagers watching movies and sending pictures to each other all day, we'd be able
to use it for something of actual benefit to society as a whole.

Re:Dedicated worldwide spectrum is hard to get (1)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | about a year ago | (#43195795)

Are you claiming that happy teenagers is not a benefit to society as a whole?

Re:Dedicated worldwide spectrum is hard to get (1)

Shirley Marquez (1753714) | about a year ago | (#43200947)

The problem is that the process of getting radio spectrum allocated takes time. The space companies have to start the process now to get spectrum in time for their large scale operations; they can't wait until the operations are in place and then apply because then they would be grounded for at least a couple of years.

Uncle Charlie (2)

h8sg8s (559966) | about a year ago | (#43193141)

The FCC (Uncle Charlie) is really struggling these days. Their structure dates back to 1934 and the combination of ever-faster-changing-technology and scope creep has simply overwhelmed them. Only the fact that the ITU is worse keeps them in business.

Looks like another corporate spectrum giveaway in (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43193243)

the making. The purported rationale is different every time but it always comes down to the same thing.

You know (1)

kilodelta (843627) | about a year ago | (#43193457)

If there were no commercial ramifications you could use amateur radio licenses. People already talk to the ISS, bounce signals off the moon, etc. All you need is the ticket.

Re:You know (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43193749)

The ISS uses amateur radio for teaching and recreation. For operating needs they use non-amateur frequencies. Anyway, they don't need a big chunk of spectrum, they only need a couple of frequencies at most. The only communications would be ground to ship (plane, whatever you want to call it), and maybe a data link.

Re:You know (1)

RocketAcademy (2708739) | about a year ago | (#43193899)

If there were no commercial ramifications you could use amateur radio licenses. People already talk to the ISS, bounce signals off the moon, etc. All you need is the ticket.

Not legally.

Re:You know (1)

GWRedDragon (1340961) | about a year ago | (#43193963)

If there were no commercial ramifications you could use amateur radio licenses. People already talk to the ISS, bounce signals off the moon, etc. All you need is the ticket.

Ham radio cannot be used for any commercial purpose. If a commercial spaceflight pilot could use it as their main communication channel, then every other company could use it by some similar logic. Then things would just degenerate to a war to see who had the most powerful transmitter or something. It would be bad.

Re:You know (1)

Tactical Lime (2578731) | about a year ago | (#43194027)

It's not a question of commercial or not. What you need to do it leverage the crisis handling skills of amateur emcomm operators in a commercial setting. They will not be operating under an amateur license they will be operating under a commercial license but having the experience and knowledge of amateur operators that have come from the emcomm field. What would cost less, training commercial personnel in communications protocols or training radio amateurs in commercial protocols. ROI baby! It just makes sense.

Re:You know (1)

Teancum (67324) | about a year ago | (#43194211)

My experience is that commercial radio engineers tend to know more about their spectrum usage and how it interacts with other frequencies much better than most amateurs.... even experienced "Ham" radio operators. This isn't to say that somebody training under an amateur radio license is completely clueless, and I'll admit that one of the major reasons for encouraging amateur radio operators by the FCC and other licensing bodies was to help train a group of people who could theoretically be employed in an emergency for military and/or government service. Many amateur radio organizations usually do community service with emergency communications systems... to cite an example of this kind of partnership.

That said, commercial radio is difficult in part because commercial operators are granted the ability to use higher amounts of power, occupy prime frequency bands, and need to "play nice" with other radio users (even if they sometimes are jerks about playing nice). That is sort of the point of the whole licensing process that radio broadcasters and even commercial radio users like cell phone tower operators work under. The whole licensing regime is also the allocation of scarce resources (bandwidth is at a premium at many frequencies) and not everybody can be accommodated to use whatever they want to use whenever they want to use it.

Most commercial radio engineers have amateur licenses as well, at least so far as it gives them additional ways for them to practice their skills and already have the knowledge to pass most amateur licensing exams. The opposite isn't as true.

Is radio the only option? (1)

CdBee (742846) | about a year ago | (#43193583)

Not a physicist, please be gentle if this is ludicrous but would it be possible to do signalling using targeted infrared lasers once in orbit (where no atmospheric drag precludes extending an external pod) and use commercial aviation bands at normal power levels for in-atmosphere flight?

Re:Is radio the only option? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43193621)

Not a physicist, please be gentle if this is ludicrous but would it be possible to do signalling using targeted infrared lasers once in orbit (where no atmospheric drag precludes extending an external pod) and use commercial aviation bands at normal power levels for in-atmosphere flight?

That's a very tiny target to hit with a very tiny beam. These aren't orbital flights anyway, so the story is a bit silly.

Re:Is radio the only option? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43195269)

Not a physicist, please be gentle if this is ludicrous but would it be possible to do signalling using targeted infrared lasers once in orbit (where no atmospheric drag precludes extending an external pod) and use commercial aviation bands at normal power levels for in-atmosphere flight?

That's a very tiny target to hit with a very tiny beam. These aren't orbital flights anyway, so the story is a bit silly.

Who said a very tiny beam? A typical laser pointer, for example, has a divergence of 1-2 mrad, a far cry from the "parallel beam" it's often presumed to be by people who don't grok optics. If that's too tight, it's trivial to defocus it to any desired angle. Or, if you need tighter focus (seems unlikely, but whatever) just use a telescope to expand the beam diameter.

It ain't rocket science.

You're right - and they do use lasers (1)

erikscott (1360245) | about a year ago | (#43194585)

Actually, extremely-high bandwidth laser comms for communication at further-than-the-moon distances is a hot research topic, precisely because optical telescopes can do things that radio telescopes can't. Specifically, optical telescopes can offer 150dB of gain even from a modest-sized 'scope. For more, see the tech report series at JPL's TMO Tech Report Series [] .

Of course, lasers require precision aiming, but that's just an engineering problem. :-)

Re:You're right - and they do use lasers (1)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | about a year ago | (#43195801)

150dB is a lot. But i would expect atmospheric effects to preclude earth-space coms being very effective.

Re:You're right - and they do use lasers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43196207)

No less effective than doing astronomical observations from the ground. Which also require precision aiming and tracking. However, these aren't orbital flights with the time to deploy and set up a laser transceiver, they're short suborbital hops that barely get out of the atmosphere.

Re:Is radio the only option? (1)

Shirley Marquez (1753714) | about a year ago | (#43200959)

Radio is likely the only viable option for launch and reentry, when the space ship is moving rapidly relative to the ground station. It's also the part of the operation when you have the greatest need for communications.

Everybody Wants a Piece of Pie (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43193669)

(Author's Note: Author works in the satellite communications industry, and also holds an Amateur Radio license. All opinions are the author's own and he does not speak for either the satellite communications industry nor the Amateur radio operator's community.)

First, the FCC doesn't provision spectrum use for the whole planet--nor do they provision spectrum use for the US in a vacuum. The FCC works in cooperation with the ITU and other governing authorities when it comes to spectrum allocation.
Some areas of spectrum have long been in high-demand--a quick glance at the HF Spectrum chart published by NIST strongly suggests this. One of the major issues, historically, has been that spectrum set-asides have been allocated and under-utilized or not utilized at all. This has had the effect of crowding other users' allocations, as well as over-inflating the value of the remaining spectrum allocations--simple law of supply and demand.

The argument (to paraphrase) that the public owns the airwaves, so the public should have unfettered access at will is not only ridiculous, but dangerous; and completely ignores about 200 years of both case law as well as Constitutional provisions regarding interstate commerce. The Federal government is *well* within their rights to govern the airwaves. What is more, spectrum that *has* been given over to the "general public" and left to govern itself (I'm specifically thinking here about the 27MHz CB band) has been a complete and utter failure--people running illegal equipment, at illegal power levels; causing interference with spurrious emmissions, broadcasting instead of utilizing the spectrum for two-way communications, and wandering outside their allocation into adjacent areas of the HF bands. The only reason the FCC has allowed the disaster that is the CB band to go on for so long is that a] there's no way to stuff the genie back in the bottle--and they know it--and b] by allowing the kids to play in the CB sandbox, at least it contains the problem. The huge up-side to having the CB band at the frequency it falls within is that it's *far* less likely, from a propagational standpoint, to cause harm to legitimate users, first; and second that the Amateur Radio 10meter band is immediately adjacent to the 11m CB band--and hams have historically been *much* better (although not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination) about governing themselves in accordance with the FCC rules. That is not to say Radio Amateurs are saints -there's bad apples in any crowd. However, by and large hams value their licenses and conduct themselves accordingly.

    There *is* spectrum for commercial space operations to use, as well--but just like other stake-holders, there are requirements that have to be met. Within the US there are many, many frequencies for aeronautical use - but there may need to be de-confliction with other users, and users and equipment will probably need to be licensed--just like *all* the other users of the spectrum. What is more, Commercial Space Operations are a johnny-come-lately to the game--so getting everything they want just by asking is simply not going to happen--and that's just in the US and dealing with the FCC--take it to the ITU for worldwide de-confliction and it becomes a much more complicated matter.

    What it sounds like, to me, is that they need a Commercial Space Operations Frequency Managers Working Group to work with the ITU and the FCC and other countries to work a solution set.

Re:Everybody Wants a Piece of Pie (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43195389)

Mod up.Only person that's got it so far.

Re:Everybody Wants a Piece of Pie (1)

Shirley Marquez (1753714) | about a year ago | (#43200999)

It will be some work to make all the necessary international coordination happen but it should be feasible. The space companies need suitable spectrum to make their operations possible. But they shouldn't need vast quantities of it; they're presumably not going to be broadcasting multiple video streams from space or anything of the like, just some voice comms and telemetry.

What about the 96%? (1)

Gonoff (88518) | about a year ago | (#43193931)

What if someone from outside the USA goes into space? The FCC has less than no authority over them.

For those of you wondering how this bizarre state of affairs could come about, just ask yourself who is actually taking bookings right now.
Virgin Galactic is part of Sir Richard Bransons empire and although he is content to fly from somewhere in New Mexico, that may only be because that is where the money is. You can try and prevent things moving but maybe someone has got developers in Europe or Australia working in it.

Your bureaucracies have no say on anything outside your territorial limits. If outer space is to be used, there will be either a free for all or treaties. I prefer the idea of traties and an international body to regulate things. To upset conservatives in your and my countries, I propose the UN as the final authority in the matter.

Re:What about the 96%? (1)

slimjim8094 (941042) | about a year ago | (#43194131)

Arguably a United States spaceship is within the territorial limits of the United States. This is why the FCC licenses aeronautical and nautical stations regardless of where they are. It's also why US embassies use radio frequencies for their communications that are allocated by the US, not the host country.

Surely they will continue to use good engineering practice in picking frequencies that are either designated for a similar-enough purpose, or can be made available for this use. We managed to talk to the astronauts in the Apollo program after all.

Re:What about the 96%? (1)

dkf (304284) | about a year ago | (#43196331)

It's also why US embassies use radio frequencies for their communications that are allocated by the US, not the host country.

They'll be using frequencies from bands designated globally for embassy traffic so that they don't get the host country riled up enough for them to start broadcasting at high power from nearby, drowning the embassy out. Embassies generally try to avoid irritating their hosts directly, as there's all sorts of ways for the host to make things unpleasant even without physically intruding. I'm guessing that the FCC/State Department negotiate what frequencies to actually use for official communications with the host country's equivalents; who technically sets it isn't relevant since its always set by agreement.

Re:What about the 96%? (1)

Teancum (67324) | about a year ago | (#43194289)

The question being raised about this frequency usage is not for space to space communication, but for space to ground communication. In other words, it is dealing with stuff that is happening here on the Earth and in the jurisdiction of some government.

To use your example, if Richard Branson is flying his Spaceship Two over New Mexico and asking for clearance to land, he needs to get permission from the FCC to even use the radio to communicate with the personnel at Spaceport America. If he was doing this in another country like Australia or (much more likely) Scotland, he would need to get permission of those respective governments to do the same thing.

This has absolutely nothing to do with nationalism or America asserting itself into regulating people who aren't even in America. There are groups like the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) that deals with these kind of issues on an international level, and there are already treaties in place for dealing with this very kind of thing. Not all countries agree on the same issues, but those who have advanced telecommunications infrastructures generally do cooperate. Smaller countries like Niue or Tuvalu tend to not care so much about frequency usage, but then again it usually isn't a problem (or rather full of all kinds of problems precisely because there isn't any strong regulating agency over frequency usage). BTW, the ITU is linked to the United Nations... if you weren't aware of them previously. You don't need to propose a thing because it already is international custom and law.

In other words, this is all about the 96% of the people in the civilized world who actually give a damn about this stuff, and that other 8% you are bitching about are living in places like Ethiopia and Somalia where concerns about commercial spaceflight isn't going to be a concern for another century or more, if it ever happens.

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