New rules streamline procedures for licensing commercial space imaging systems

Alan Boyle
An artist’s conception shows BlackSky’s Global satellites in orbit. (BlackSky Illustration)

The Commerce Department has released a new set of rules aimed at making the procedure for licensing Earth-imaging satellite systems more in tune with what’s technically possible and commercially available on the global market.

  • The regulatory streamlining effort was one of the initiatives sparked by Space Policy Directive 2 back in 2018. The need for such streamlining came to the fore earlier that year, when SpaceX was barred from broadcasting video captured from orbit during a Falcon 9 rocket launch.
  • The new rules consider what’s commercially available from foreign sources when deciding the allowable resolution for imagery from U.S. satellite systems. Also, there’s more leeway for enhanced services that take advantage of cloud computing, data analysis and artificial intelligence.
  • During today’s National Space Council meeting, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the revised rules will ensure that U.S. space companies “remain competitive in the fast-developing global markets for commercial remote sensing products and services.” One of the emerging players in those markets is Seattle-based BlackSky, which is developing its own satellite constellation and offers a geospatial data analysis service called Spectra.

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