Since 2010, millions of space fans have devoured video footage of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, but not the US government agency charged with regulating videos filmed from space.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in space by Americans. A spokesperson for the agency told Quartz that the agency had "recently" noticed the immensely popular space videos transmitted by SpaceX for the past eight years. Other companies such as United Launch Alliance, Orbital ATK and Rocket Lab have published similar images.
The rocket manufacturers did not request licenses for their transmissions because they did not consider their vehicles, which operate in orbit for a few hours before being abandoned, in the same category as the dedicated terrestrial image satellites launched by companies such as Planet or DigitalGlobe.
Sometime this year, NOAA decided that the short-lived SpaceX second-stage rocket required the same licenses as satellite platforms intended to orbit the Earth for years, and instructed the company that it needed a license to share images of any release that has not been made for government clients.
SpaceX presented its first video sharing application during the launch of the Iridium satellite operator on March 30. He only received a provisional license for the mission, and the host of the SpaceX broadcast announced that NOAA had banned transmitting the last stages of the flight, which would have shown the gentle ejection of ten satellites from the rocket and into orbit.
Reporters called NOAA, whose spokesmen mistakenly told them that the agency had nothing to do with the launch. Six hours later, the agency backed down and said Three days later, a NOAA employee reversed course, claiming that the agency had not decided to impose the requirement on SpaceX: "It was SpaceX that came to us," Tahara Dawkins , the director of NOAA's satellite regulatory office, said at a public meeting. "It was not NOAA who approached them and said, 'Hey, stop, they'll need a license.'"
That account contradicts NOAA's own statements. "Recently, NOAA has become aware of the efforts of the private sector to reproduce live footage from stage 2, while in orbit, for the public," NOAA spokesman Christopher Vaccaro wrote to Quartz in an e-mail when asked to clean up the discrepancy. "Now, that NOAA has learned, is obligated to enforce the provisions of the law and work with individual companies to ensure they have the proper license."
Vaccaro did not say how NOAA finally realized the popular videos; Many industry observers point to the spectacle of a Tesla roadster launched by SpaceX on Falcon Heavy's inaugural flight, which transmitted images of the earth for several hours before the signal was lost.
Like the recent launch of four unauthorized satellites, this episode shows how the system to regulate the space business strives under new capabilities initiated by private companies. A spokesperson for SpaceX said the company is committed to working with NOAA to find a solution to resume the regular issuance of images from the second stage of commercial flights.
SpaceX typically uses the images of its rocket to understand how it behaves in orbital, but the transmission has proven to be a popular improvement for the SpaceX image and a powerful recruiting tool aimed at young aerospace engineers highly sought after in the space industry .
SpaceX and other space companies are working with the Trump Administration's National Space Council on a highly publicized effort to simplify spatial regulations. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, NOAA's cabinet official, praised the new space companies earlier this year, saying "the rate of innovation is extraordinary, so we need an adaptive and relatively permissive regulatory system for trade." space".
For that reason, NOAA's decision to require SpaceX to license its perplexed observers from the industry. "I think this reaffirms in a clear resolution why these obsolete and mysterious regulations should be updated," said Eric Stallmer, president of the Federation of Commercial Space Flight to Quartz.