In a landmark decision, the US authorities punished DISH for littering space. The company sent a satellite into orbit, but improperly removed the device from shared space. So she was fined a lot.
The telecommunications company DISH provides satellite television services in the United States by sending a signal from orbit. However, American regulators detected the incorrect removal of one of the satellites. This initiated the first ever proceedings regarding space littering.
DISH fined – first fine for space debris in the USA
The case regarding the EchoStar-7 satellite was taken up by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Nearly 20 years ago, the device was sent into space, where it has been providing communications services ever since. In 2012, the telecom committed to safely remove the machine by placing it in an orbit 300 km higher than the working one.
At the end of 2022, EchoStar-7 officially ended its service. However, the plan was not implemented – the remaining fuel of the unit was only enough to raise the orbit by about 122 km, instead of the promised 300 km. The Federal Communications Commission considered this a breach of duty and, in the first decision of this type in the world, imposed a fine on DISH of PLN 150,000. dollars. The official reason is to contribute to space littering.
In an official statement, DISH regrets the fine. Its representatives emphasize, among others: that the FCC failed to prove that the satellite wreckage threatened safety in orbit. They also add that the contract should not apply to EchoStar-7, as it is an older type of unit.
Space debris is an increasing problem
We at Wprost.pl have already informed about the increasingly serious problem of space debris. Old satellites, rocket debris and debris from collisions are a threat that can even “poison” the Earth’s orbit and completely put it out of use.
According to statistics, there are currently about a million objects measuring over 1 centimeter in orbit. There may be as many as 130 million of those ranging from 1 millimeter to 1 centimeter.
– Any collision in orbit can have very serious consequences. We are talking about damage to the instruments of a given unit, disabling its functions, destruction of solar panels, thus limiting the power supply, or a complete collision, thus terminating the service provided, explained Marcin Dobrowolski, president of the Polish company PIAP Space, in an interview.
Another issue is the significant increase in satellites sent into orbit. Until 2015, the number of objects removed was less than 200 per year. In 2022, there were already 2,400 facilities, and experts expect an increase of 500 or even 600 more each year.
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