CSPS Releases Policy Paper on Compliance for Small Satellites

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (Nov. 30, 2017) – The Aerospace Corporation’s (Aerospace) Center for Space Policy and Strategy released a policy paper, Navigating the Space Compliance Roadmap for Small Satellites. The paper explores compliance for small satellites and how U.S. spaceflight regulations apply to the increasingly common “nontraditional missions.”

The release of Aerospace’s analysis is timely, as Congress is considering new legislation, The American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017, intended to foster a “more favorable legal and policy environment for free enterprise.” This paper also provides roadmaps to help new mission planners obtain the proper approvals prior to launch and discusses how U.S. spaceflight regulations apply to the increasingly common “nontraditional missions” which do not match the historical norm of a single large government satellite on a launch vehicle.  Authors Barbara Braun, systems director, Space Innovation Directorate, and Eleni “Sam” Sims, project engineer, highlight significant opportunities to improve and streamline the current approval process for new space systems.

“Launches today rarely consist of one satellite on one launch vehicle owned by a single agency,” said Sims. “The emerging trends that we’re seeing now are a large number of new entrants, space launches that provide multiple rideshares, satellites carrying hosted payloads, and the proliferation of small satellites.”

Transforming the overall process, added Sims, requires time, commitment, cooperation, and legislative action. “We’re recommending a new process that ensures compliance and identifies areas where policy should be reevaluated,” said Braun. “In particular, we looked at policy in the areas of orbital debris, spectrum usage, cybersecurity, imaging, and proximity operations. One potential course of action is for Congress to designate a single authority for commercial space activities.”

Jamie Morin, executive director of the Center for Space Policy and Strategy noted that applicable policy and approval authorities are not always clear-cut.

“U.S. policy regarding access to space is complex and often confusing for new players, with different agencies regulating different types of missions or even different phases of a mission,” said Morin. “The situation is even more complicated for satellites that don’t fit the typical mission mold and launches that don’t have a single responsible owner. That describes a growing number of missions involving large constellations of small satellites, with diverse funding mechanisms and flexible launch strategies.”

About the Center for Space Policy and Strategy

The Center for Space Policy and Strategy is dedicated to shaping the future by providing nonpartisan research and strategic analysis to decisionmakers. The Center is part of The Aerospace Corporation, a nonprofit organization that advises the government on complex space enterprise and systems engineering problems.

About The Aerospace Corporation

The Aerospace Corporation is a nonprofit corporation that operates a federally funded research and development center (FFRDC) for the United States Air Force. With expertise that encompasses the entire space domain, as well as non-space areas, Aerospace responds with agility to challenges posed by complex, technology-based projects and delivers innovative solutions that assure mission success. The Aerospace Corporation is headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., with multiple locations across the United States.

For more information, visit www.aerospace.org. Follow us on Twitter: @AerospaceCorp.

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