A Stellar Announcement: FCC Plans for New Space Bureau and Office of International Affairs

Yesterday morning Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced her plan to split the FCC’s International Bureau (IB) —  comprised of divisions responsible for satellite, telecommunications and analysis, and global strategy and negotiation — into the Space Bureau and Office of International Affairs. Chairwoman Rosenworcel said the reorganization will help the FCC “keep up with the meteoric rise of the space industry.”  

Under the plan, the Space Bureau would be responsible for space, satellite, and earth station licensing and policy, including related inter-agency coordination, and the Office of International Affairs would be responsible for international communications licensing and regulation.

The FCC believes this new framework will improve its administration of space and satellite matters, which has seen a marked increase in proceedings and applications.  Between 2020 and 2022, the Bureau received more than 64,000 new satellite applications, an eight-fold increase in applications for fixed satellite service gateway Earth stations, and new and novel applications for activities like lunar landers, mission extension vehicles, and space antenna farms.

Chairwoman Rosenworcel’s restructuring announcement is welcome news for many in the sector, including the Satellite Industry Association, which said the move will help “ensure the industry’s continued innovation and growth plus the long-term access to a sustainable and safe orbital space environment.” 

The FCC has not indicated when the new Space Bureau and Office of International Affairs will launch. It took approximately 11 months for the FCC to establish the Office of Economic Analysis (OEA) in 2018. That process involved Congressional approval and formal notice in the Federal Register before going to a vote by the Commissioners. 

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