FCC votes to boost manufacturing in space

The FCC may have just spurred the industrialization of space. The commissioners have voted for an inquiry that will examine in-space maintenance, assembly and manufacturing (ISAM). The move would both help officials understand the needs and risks of current production technology in space, and facilitate new projects. This could help companies, for example, build satellites and stations in orbit while finding new ways to deal with the growing amount of space debris.

The vote helps open a new “space innovation” dossier at the FCC. It also comes two days after the regulator updated its rules to give more room for satellite broadband spectrum. So expect significantly more space-related developments in the future.

Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel saw the investigation as vital. Existing rules were made for “another era” in which space programs were run solely by the government, she said. ISAM’s support will ideally help the FCC adapt to space tourism, huge private satellite constellations, and a larger general shift toward commercial space travel.

The pressure to act is great. Blue Origin, Axiom and other companies are building commercial space stations, and even NASA is gearing up for a time when it could rent space aboard corporate facilities. In-orbit satellite repairs could also prove crucial in minimizing space debris from a wave of privately operated satellites. While the FCC is just beginning its efforts, the benefits could linger for decades to come.

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