The United States gets the first ever fine for space debris

Space debris in low Earth orbit is becoming an increasingly serious problem. Old rocket parts and decommissioned satellites are orbiting our planet at high speed, posing a threat not only to functioning satellites providing critical services, but also to astronauts aboard the International Space Station and China’s Tiangong orbital station.

Space debris in the artist’s image. Source: Spacejunk3D, LLC

The situation worsens when space debris crashes into each other, resulting in it breaking into smaller fragments. While humanity continues to look for effective ways to remove debris from low-Earth orbit, the US government has begun handing out fines to companies that do not take proper responsibility for equipment left in orbit.

Dish Network was the first to receive such a fine from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of 150 thousand dollars for the fact that it could not safely move its inoperable satellite away from the still actively operating ones. Dish Network acknowledged responsibility for the condition of its EchoStar-7 spacecraft and agreed to the FCC compliance plan.


The EchoStar-7 satellite was launched in 2002 and was in geostationary orbit at a distance of about 35 thousand km from Earth. Dish Network was supposed to move the spacecraft 300 km higher, but after its deactivation in 2022, it lost fuel and was able to rise only 122 km. The inability to carry out the agreed maneuver led Dish Network to violate the terms of its FCC license, which resulted in a fine.

“As satellite operations become more prevalent and the space economy accelerates, we must be certain that operators comply with their commitments,” explained Loyaan A. Egal, FCC’s Enforcement Bureau Chief.

Egal describes the result as a breakthrough agreement that makes it clear that the FCC has strong law enforcement powers and capabilities to enforce its vital space debris regulations. 

It’s too early to say whether the FCC fine will be the first of many, and whether it will have any real impact on those who leave debris in orbit. If the threat of fines convinces satellite operators to make better plans for what will happen to their equipment after its decommissioning, then this will secure our future. However, the more pressing problem remains the cleaning of the accumulated mass of debris that is already in orbit.

Earlier we reported that there was no one to clean up the garbage on the Moon.

According to FCC.

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