NOAA admits it wants the power to license all camera use in space


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Government power grab: At a conference today a NOAA official revealed that its lawyers have decided to liberally interpret federal law so that the agency has the power to license all camera use in space.

According to Tahara Dawkins, director of Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs (CRSRA) office,

[p]art of the licensing review for commercial remote sensing systems involves a check of any national security implications of that system, but it’s not clear what issues an onboard camera system, whose views of the Earth are typically low resolution and often obscured by the rocket itself, might pose.

Dawkins said that no previous SpaceX launches had NOAA commercial remote sensing licenses, even though many have flown onboard cameras, including several previous Iridium missions. An April 2 launch of a Falcon 9 from Florida carrying a Dragon cargo spacecraft had no such restrictions, she said, because that was considered a government mission. While the spacecraft is performing a mission under contract to NASA, the launch itself was considered commercial and licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation.

NOAA was not aware of the previous launches that featured onboard cameras. “Our office is extremely small, and there’s a lot of things out there that we miss,” she said. “The onus is on the companies to come to us and get a license when needed.” [emphasis mine]

The highlighted words prove that the big publicity of the Falcon Heavy launch, showing the Tesla with the Earth in the background, instigated this stupidity. This office doesn’t have the slightest idea what is going on. Footage from rocket launches have become routine now for almost a decade. They saw the Tesla images and decided to exert their power, despite the fact that, as the article notes,

Part of the licensing review for commercial remote sensing systems involves a check of any national security implications of that system, but it’s not clear what issues an onboard camera system, whose views of the Earth are typically low resolution and often obscured by the rocket itself, might pose.

This is government overreach at its worst. If Trump is serious about cutting back regulation, he should step it now to shut this down.

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