For the first time, a company has been fined for not properly cleaning up space waste. The US Federal Communications Commission FCC said on Monday that telecommunications company DISH must pay $150,000 (more than 140,000 euros).
DISH should have ensured that the satellite would move to another location near Earth at the end of its life, but that did not happen. As a result, the satellite called EchoStar-7 still poses a danger to other satellites.
EchoStar-7 was launched in 2002. It orbited the Earth at a distance of about 36 thousand kilometers. This is the normal working position of communications satellites, and is much higher than observation satellites and space stations.
DISH and the FCC agreed in 2012 that the satellite would use the last bit of fuel at the end of its life to fly to a “cemetery” in space. There it will not pose a danger to other satellites.
FCC talks about a “breakthrough”
When the time came ten years later and the end of the satellite approached, it became clear that there was no longer enough fuel on board. As a result, EchoStar-7 remains a danger to other communications satellites in this high orbit.
“As our use of satellites increases and the space economy grows, companies must meet their obligations,” the FCC said. “This action is a major accomplishment.”
There are thousands of satellites and many pieces of debris orbiting the Earth at high speed. When they collide, they break into smaller pieces. The more space debris there is, the greater the chance of more collisions occurring and creating more waste. Because of the high speeds, even the smallest pieces of debris can be dangerous.
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