On Monday the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) came down on Dish for "failure to properly deorbit" a satellite called EchoStar-7, in orbit since 2002.
"This marks a first in space debris enforcement by the Commission, which has stepped up its satellite policy efforts," the FCC, which authorizes space-based telecom services, said in a statement.
As the geostationary satellite came to the end of its operational life, Dish had moved it to an altitude lower than the two parties had agreed on, where it "could pose orbital debris concerns," the FCC said.
The commission said Dish, a US satellite television provider, pledged in 2012 to elevate the satellite to 300 kilometers (190 miles) above its operational arc.
But with fuel running low, it retired the satellite at an altitude just over 120 kilometers above the original arc.
"As satellite operations become more prevalent and the space economy accelerates, we must be certain that operators comply with their commitments," said FCC enforcement bureau chief Loyaan Egal.
"This is a breakthrough settlement, making very clear the FCC has strong enforcement authority and capability to enforce its vitally important space debris rules."
The FCC said the settlement "includes an admission of liability from the company and an agreement to adhere to a compliance plan and pay a penalty of $150,000."
In a statement Tuesday, Dish appeared to counter the FCC over disposal requirements, and argued that the commission's enforcement arm made "no specific findings that EchoStar-7 poses any orbital debris safety concerns."
"As the Enforcement Bureau recognizes in the settlement, the EchoStar-7 satellite was an older spacecraft that had been explicitly exempted from the FCC's rule requiring a minimum disposal orbit," a Dish spokesperson said in a statement.
"DISH has a long track record of safely flying a large satellite fleet and takes seriously its responsibilities as an FCC licensee."
- Collision risks -
The US aviation regulator, FAA, recently announced its intention to reduce space debris by requiring private companies to dispose of the upper stages of rocket launch vehicles by, for example, returning them to the Earth's atmosphere or moving them to a less congested "graveyard orbit."
The new regulation, which has yet to be definitively adopted, already exists for government space missions.
"If left unchecked, the accumulation of orbital debris will increase the risk of collisions and clutter orbits used for human spaceflight and for satellites," the Federal Aviation Administration said.
The European Space Agency estimates that around one million pieces of debris larger than a centimeter -- big enough to "disable a spacecraft" -- are in Earth's orbit.
They are already causing problems, from a near-miss in January last year involving a Chinese satellite, to a five-millimetre hole knocked into a robotic arm on the International Space Station in 2021.
With satellites now crucial for GPS, broadband and banking data, collisions pose significant risks on Earth.
Space Technology News - Applications and Research
|Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters
Space needs better 'parking spots' to stay usable
Ethical guidelines needed before human research in commercial spaceflight is ready for liftoff
GITAI passes all NASA safety reviews for ISS external demonstration
Chinese universities climb up leading global ranking
Maritime Launch unveils commercial suborbital program at Spaceport Nova Scotia
Record-breaking launch of SpaceX's Starlink satellites
Blue Origin to remain grounded for now following crash probe
All engines added to NASA's Artemis II core stage
NASA's Perseverance captures dust-filled Martian whirlwind
Double DRT for a Soliday: Sols 3964-3965:
Dust removal delayed: Sols 3962-3963
Curiosity Needs an Altitude Adjustment: Sols 3955-3956
Astronauts honored for contributions to China's space program
China capable of protecting astronauts from effects of space weightlessness
Tianzhou 5 spacecraft burns up on Earth reentry
Crew of Shenzhou XV mission honored for six-month space odyssey
Eutelsat and OneWeb combination world's first GEO-LEO Operator
Amazon's Project Kuiper takes flight with first satellite launch
Amazon Gears Up for Inaugural Satellite Launch of Project Kuiper
India's private space sector skyrockets
US TV provider given first-ever space debris fine
US slaps Satellite TV provider with first-ever space debris fine
Metal-loving microbes could replace chemical processing of rare earths
Five things to know about 'Assassin's Creed'
James Webb telescope captures planet-like structures in Orion Nebula
Study sheds new light on strange lava worlds
JWST's first spectrum of a TRAPPIST-1 planet
Alien Machines in the Solar System: The Possibilities and Potential Origins
Plot thickens in the hunt for a ninth planet
Webb finds carbon source on surface of Jupiter's moon Europa
Hidden ocean the source of CO2 on Jupiter moon
Juice: why's it taking sooo long
|Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters