SpaceX Can No Longer Broadcast Video From Space Due to an Archaic Law

Friday, 06 April 2018 - 6:29PM
Space
SpaceX
Friday, 06 April 2018 - 6:29PM
SpaceX Can No Longer Broadcast Video From Space Due to an Archaic Law
< >
SpaceX
SpaceX has streamed video from space plenty of times - after all, one of the most memorable parts of their Falcon Heavy launch was the livestream of a dummy inside a Tesla floating through space.

But during SpaceX's recent online broadcast of a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 10 Iridium satellites into low-Earth orbit, they suddenly cut off live footage from the rocket's second stage after about nine minutes. Their reason for stopping the webcast early was because of "restrictions" imposed by the the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who was now enforcing some old laws about what the company could broadcast from space.

SpaceX engineer Michael Hammersley, who hosted the live webcast of the launch, said the following on the subject:

Opening quote
"Due to some restrictions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA for short, SpaceX will be intentionally ending live video coverage of the second stage just prior to engine shutdown. We're working with NOAA to address these restrictions in order to hopefully be able to bring you live views from orbit in the future."
Closing quote


The NOAA explained in response that any "commercial remote sensing system" which could take pictures of Earth from orbit had to be authorized by the government agency. And since private companies like SpaceX could now attach video cameras to rockets that would reach orbit, the NOAA has decided to get stricter about what can be broadcast into space.



That law comes from the 1992 National Commercial and Space Programs Act, back when "commercial space programs" weren't nearly as much of a presence. They haven't been enforced for some time, and SpaceX claimed they were unaware that these rulings existed before the NOAA recently reached out to them.

Because of this, SpaceX did hastily submit an application to broadcast during their Iridium mission, but they only got the application to the NOAA four days before the launch, while the agency asks to receive applications 120 days in advance. The NOAA cites national security risks as the reason behind the lengthy approval process, because there's a chance that live broadcasts from orbit could reveal secretive government stuff.

It seems to be a fairly archaic law, as satellites (the most likely candidates for taking high-definition photos from orbit) are already strictly regulated by other agencies, and SpaceX's low resolution broadcasts seem pretty harmless. But the NOAA must've likely seen the unlicensed "Starman" footage and decided to take action.

While it's unfortunate that this broadcast had to end early, at least SpaceX knows about the law now, and can jump through whatever hoops they need to for future broadcasts.
Science
Science News
Space
SpaceX
No