The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued its first space debris enforcement fine, of $150,000 for DISH (DISH.O) owing to its failure to properly de-orbit its EchoStar-7 satellite.
The FCC stated that DISH relocated its direct broadcast service EchoStar-7 satellite at the end-of-mission to a disposal orbit “well below the elevation required by the terms of its license” after launching it in 2002 and that the company’s action “could pose orbital debris concerns.”
Under a plan the FCC approved in 2012, DISH committed to bring the satellite at the end of its mission to an altitude of 300 kilometers (186.41 miles) above its operational geostationary arc. In February 2022, DISH said “the satellite had very little propellant left, which meant it could not follow the original orbital debris mitigation plan in its license.”
DISH ultimately retired the satellite at a disposal orbit well short of that specified in its mitigation. The wholly owned unit of DISH Network has admitted liability and will adhere to a compliance plan according to the FCC.
FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Loyaan Egal remarked that the announcement “is a breakthrough settlement, making very clear the FCC has strong enforcement authority and capability to enforce its vitally important space debris rules.”
The FCC has boosted its satellite policy efforts in recent years. DISH did not immediately respond to a request for comment.