FCC Expands “Experimental Authorization” Program To Give Commercial Space Companies Access To Spectrum

The FCC has had it’s Experimental Authorization program (which temporarily licenses spectrum on an as-needed basis) for a while now, but today marks the first time that program has been extended to commercial space flight. The plan allows companies to apply for spectrum on a temporary basis so they can safely operate their missions, as scheduled.

As it stands now, companies like SpaceX (with its Dragon resupply missions to the ISS and Falcon9 rocket launches), and XCOR Aerospace and Space Expedition Corporation (who have introduced the LINX for quick trips to space and back) must request spectrum on an as-needed basis. And there are no insurances that they’ll get what they need, when they need it, to facilitate communication with these space crafts.

In response, Chairman Julius Genachowski has put forward a proposal to carve out spectrum specifically for the commercial space industry.

Here’s FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s official statement:

Our actions today are designed to accelerate the growth of a new American industry with major growth potential, commercial space launches. Companies can’t launch or operate space vehicles without spectrum, and today the U.S. is leading the way in developing rules of the road for commercial space launches. Our measures to streamline processes and increase predictability will help boost U.S. leadership in the commercial space industry.

According to the release, which offers guidance to companies wishing to license spectrum for space missions, companies can submit an application after getting an FCC registration number. The Commission suggests submission of applications at least 90 days in advance of any launch.

Though all spectrum used in the Experimental Authorization program are government-issue, they’re being “rented” out, so to say, on a non-interference basis. This means that “the licensed operations can neither cause interference nor claim protection from interference.”

The Experiemental Authorization grants will last for six months after being granted and they are renewable.