Profs. Tell DC Circ. SpaceX Launches Need Enviro Review

Nadia Dreid, Law360, Aug 17, 2021

Law360 (August 17, 2021, 7:13 PM EDT) — The Federal Communications Commission made a mistake when it gave SpaceX permission to launch thousands of broadband satellites from its Starlink fleet closer to Earth than originally planned without also ordering an environmental review, a group of astronomy professors told the D.C. Circuit.

The number of satellites in low Earth orbit is already making it difficult for astronomers to do their job, and the work is only going to get harder if the FCC continues to allow companies like Elon Musk-linked SpaceX to launch objects into the sky without considering the effect on the environment, the celestial experts argued.

University of Edinburgh astronomy professor Andy Lawrence filed the amicus brief Friday, bringing his two cents to the consolidated set of appeals before the D.C. Circuit, all challenging the FCC’s decision to bless the Starlink launch in a lower orbit. The brief, according to Lawrence, was coordinated with several colleagues at various American institutions.

“Humans have interacted with the night sky for thousands of years,” the brief said. “Only recently, however, have humans begun launching objects into near Earth orbital space. Professor Lawrence is (and the other astronomers are) interested in this case because the commission’s order underlying it has significant potential consequences for astronomy and humans’ access to the sky.”

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Share Source: Environmental Health Trust