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NOAA gives Maxar permission to photograph things in space

We’re here to help you! According to a Maxar press release today, it has obtained permission from the federal agency NOAA (initially created to study the weather) to use the company’s satellites to not only photograph things on Earth but things in space as well.

Maxar Technologies (NYSE:MAXR) (TSX:MAXR), provider of comprehensive space solutions and secure, precise, geospatial intelligence, today announced that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has modified Maxar’s remote sensing license to enable the non-Earth imaging (NEI) capability for its current constellation on orbit as well as its next-generation WorldView Legion satellites.

Through this new license authority, Maxar can collect and distribute images of space objects across the Low Earth Orbit (LEO)—the area ranging from 200 kilometers up to 1,000 kilometers in altitude—to both government and commercial customers. Maxar’s constellation is capable of imaging objects at less than 6 inch resolution at these altitudes, and it can also support tracking of objects across a much wider volume of space.

This new permit apparently will allow Maxar’s satellites to not only look down at the Earth, but look around and image other orbiting objects, for both the military and commercial customers.

My question however is this: By what legal authority does NOAA claim the right to regulate such activity? I can see none at all, yet like other regulatory agencies (such as the FCC) during this Biden administration, NOAA is grasping this illegal power, and companies like Maxar have decided it is better to go along to get along.

During the Trump administration NOAA tried to claim, without any legal authority, that it had the right to regulate all photography in space, and thus actually forced SpaceX during one Falcon 9 launch to cease public release of the imagery from its rocket.

Within three weeks Trump’s Commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, stepped in bluntly to block NOAA’s power grab. As he said publicly, “This is silly and it will stop,”

Trump is gone however and the Biden administration is all in with letting government agencies expand their power. Though NOAA might have a some regulatory responsibility related to remote sensing in space, under no conditions can I see that responsibility giving it the right to tell any private American citizen or company what they can or cannot photograph.

I am of course assuming the first amendment to the Constitution is still in force. In today’s America it might not be.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.


  • In the current environment of “get Elon Musk”, I can see them doing this again to SpaceX. I have a feeling that SpaceX will fight back against this.

  • Datsdat Den

    Heads up, Robert. “Pubic release”…

  • Datsdat Den: Thank you. Typo fixed.

  • David ‘

    Elon Musk has realized that the Democrats will block everything – electric cars, space exploration, free speech, etc. He is betting on the Republicans winning eventually and getting rid of at least some of the BS. When and who doesn’t really matter – DeSantis 2024 or Rand Paul 2028 or whoever. Of course they are not actually good, they are just less bad. But sometimes that is enough.

  • Joe

    You go along with the power grab because you can lose millions of dollars waiting for the paperwork to clear. There is an extremely large amount of information needed before you can launch anything into space (way too much actually). While they legally cannot block you from doing things, they can slow walk your applications and then you are in trouble. Virgin Orbit is finding this out right now.

    I don’t like the rules and the overreach but my other option is not fly. I wish I had a choice but it is play or go bankrupt.

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