Old satellites must be deorbited within 5 years of last mission

Old satellites must be deorbited within 5 years of last mission
Galileo satellites are placed in medium orbits, at 23 222 km altitude along three orbital planes so that a minimum of four satellites will be visible to user receivers at any point on Earth once the constellation is complete. Photo from ESA.

Satellites in orbit around the Earth will have to be de-orbited within five years of the end of their mission, compared to 25 years previously, according to a new rule adopted on Thursday by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The purpose of the change is to prevent the accumulation of debris in space.

The satellites concerned are those sent into low orbit under license in the United States, and which evolve up to 2,000 kilometres above the Earth, such as telecommunications satellites, including the constellation of Starlink satellites from the SpaceX company.

Thousands of satellites and tonnes of debris have been accumulating around the Earth, posing a threat to spacecraft and astronauts in particular.

They could be dangerous for the crew of the International Space Station (ISS) and affect astronomers' images of the night sky.


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