Those who followed the penultimate launch of SpaceX live were disappointed when engineer Michael Hammersley announced that they would not broadcast images from the second stage of the rocket this time due to restrictions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States (NOAA).
The broadcast ended without more, shooting the rumors. At first it was thought that it could be due to a matter of national security, but the ten Iridium satellites put into orbit that day had nothing to do with the Pentagon. The explanation is much simpler, and has to do with a law of 26 years ago .
In a statement on its website , NOAA explains that the National and Commercial Space Program Law “requires a commercial license to take images of Earth from a terrestrial orbit.” Since SpaceX has several cameras in the second stage of Falcon 9, which technically reaches Earth orbit, the law requires that the company obtain a license to broadcast from space.
While these regulations were enacted to prevent anyone from launching their own spy satellites, SpaceX has been releasing their launches without a license for eight years, and almost always shows Earth in the background. Why could not he do it this time? What changed? That is the part of history that we lack.
Some people suggest that SpaceX is in NOAA’s spotlight since it launched a Tesla Roadster into space with images of the Earth that went around the world. But NOAA denies that version by ensuring that it was not aware of the previous releases of SpaceX and that it was the Elon Musk company that contacted contacted them to ask if they needed a license.
“Our office is extremely small, and there are many things that escape us,” said Tahara Dawkins, director of NOAA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs for Commercial Remote Sensing (CRSRA) . “The responsibility rests with the companies, who must visit us and obtain a license when necessary. It was SpaceX that approached NOAA. It was not the NOAA who went and said, “Hey, you have to stop, you need a license.”
Either way, SpaceX applied for the famous license four days before launch and got it, but too late. “According to the law, the Office has 120 days to make a decision on a license application,” explains Dawkins. Now the company is working on obtaining a full license so that we can continue to see images of the Earth in its next releases.