FCC Reconsiders Experimental License for Tethered Satellite in the 2.4 GHz band

April 27, 2007
In January this year, the FCC Experimental Licensing Branch granted an application from Tethers Unlimited Inc. for the "Multi-Application Survivable Tether" experiment that would use three picosatellites to investigate tether survivability and dynamics in the space environment. Last week, Orbcomm Inc. and Iridium Satellite LCC requested the FCC suspend or revoke the license.

TUI plans to deploy the three satellites into an 803.0 by 658.5 km, 98-degree inclined orbit and use 2401.2 to 2483.5 MHz to transmit data from the satellites to Earth.

Orbcomm and Irdium were concerned the satellites might collide with their non-geostationary satellite systems. Orbcomm said TUI's orbit would place the experimental tethered satellite within the orbital envelope its current system operates in and could pose an unacceptable collision hazard to its next generation constellation. Iridium claimed TUI's application did not quantify the probability that its satellites will collide with particular systems. Iridium said that because a TUI picosatellite will pass through the Iridium orbit 11 times a days, there is a significant risk of collision with one of its satellites.

The FCC is considering the requests from Iridium and Orbcomm. It has declared the proceeding reviewing the license grant as "permit-but-disclose" for ex parte purposes. See Public Notice DA 07-1791 for information on this proceeding.

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