Dish Network Hit With First-Ever Space Junk Fine

Company fined $150K for leaving satellite too low
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 3, 2023 7:43 PM CDT
Dish Network Hit With First-Ever Space Junk Fine
Dish Network satellite dishes are shown at an apartment complex in Palo Alto, California.   (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

Satellite TV provider Dish Network has chalked up a first in telecommunications history, but it's not one the Colorado-based company is likely to brag about. The Federal Communications Commission has penalized the company $150,000 in the agency's first-ever fine connected to space junk, the BBC reports. The company was fined because its EchoStar-7 satellite, launched in 2002, ended up more than 100 miles short of the "junk" or "graveyard" orbit it was supposed to enter at the end of its life.

Dish was supposed to move the satellite 186 miles from its orbit but it ran out of propellant after moving just 76 miles in 2022, leaving it low enough to be a potential risk to other satellites. The FCC says this is the first time a company has ever been fined for leaving debris in space, but it probably won't be the last.

"As satellite operations become more prevalent and the space economy accelerates, we must be certain that operators comply with their commitments," Loyaan Egal, the FCC's enforcement bureau chief, said in a statement, per CBS News. "This is a breakthrough settlement, making very clear the FCC has strong enforcement authority and capability to enforce its vitally important space debris rules." Analysts say that while the fine is only.a sliver of Dish's $17 billion annual revenue, the fact that it was issued at all might be a wake-up call for other companies. (Read more space junk stories.)

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