Planet SpaceX Petiti

PETITION submitted by Planet Labs Inc.

Planet Petition to Defer SpaceX Mod

2019-01-29

This document pretains to SAT-MOD-20181108-00083 for Modification on a Satellite Space Stations filing.


                                     Before the
                      FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
                               Washington, D.C. 20554

In the Matter of                               )
                                               )
Application of Space Exploration Holdings, LLC )           File No. SAT-MOD-20181108-00083
For Modification of Authorization for the      )
SpaceX NGSO Satellite System                   )

To: The International Bureau

                                     PETITION TO DEFER

       Planet Labs Inc. (“Planet”) hereby submits this petition to defer the above-referenced

application of Space Exploration Holdings, LLC (“SpaceX”) seeking, inter alia, authorization to

relocate 1,584 satellites from their currently authorized altitude of 1,150 km to the requested

altitude of 550 km (the “Proposed LEO Orbit”),1 which is at or near the operating orbital

altitudes of Planet’s satellites, as well as those of many non-geostationary orbit satellite systems

(“NGSOs”).2 As explained in the Commercial Smallsat Spectrum Management Association

(“CSSMA”) Comments and Petition to Defer,3 SpaceX has failed to provide a detailed collision




1
 Application of Space Exploration Holdings for Modification of Authorization for the SpaceX
NGSO Satellite System, File No. SAT-MOD-20181108-0008 (filed Nov. 8, 2018) (“SpaceX
Modification”).
2
 See Stamp Grant, Planet Labs, Inc., IBFS File No. SAT-MOD-20170713-00103 (granted Aug.
25, 2017) (authorizing Planet to operate up to 600 satellites (with 200 simultaneously
operational) in the 350-550 km orbital altitude range); see also Commercial Smallsat Spectrum
Management Association, Comments and Petition to Defer, File No. SAT-MOD-20181108-
0008, at 3-4 (filed Jan. 29, 2019) (describing other systems that operate or will operate in the
400-600 km orbital range) (“CSSMA Comments”).
3
  CSSMA Comments, Technical Annex at 1-2. Planet supports the CSSMA Comments,
including the accompanying Technical Annex, and hereby incorporates by reference those
documents.


risk analysis even though it is proposing to operate in “identical” or “very similar” low-Earth orbits

as other constellations, as required by the FCC’s rules.4

         Accordingly, the International Bureau (“Bureau”) should defer action on the SpaceX

Modification until SpaceX provides the detailed collision risk analysis sufficient for others, such

as Planet, to evaluate the risk and impact to their respective systems. As explained in the

CSSMA Comments, the increase in the number of satellites in the area and the larger mass and

cross-sectional area of SpaceX’s satellites5 may require that Planet execute more differential drag

maneuvers in response to potential conjunction events, resulting in a noticeable capacity loss and

imposing an extraordinary burden on Planet because its satellites are not operational during those

maneuvers.6 Moreover, as explained in the CSSMA Comments, deferring action on the

application is appropriate because the SpaceX Modification raises significant policy issues7 that

are likely to be addressed in the Commission’s pending proceeding on the mitigation of orbital

debris, as well potential proceedings of other federal agencies.8


4
 47 C.F.R. § 25.114(d)(14)(iii); see also Mitigation of Orbital Debris, Second Report and Order,
19 FCC Rcd 11567 ¶ 50 (2004). Indeed, SpaceX fails to acknowledge that there may be
operators at or near the Proposed LEO Orbit, other than Spire Global, Inc. and Kepler
Communications, Inc., with which SpaceX states it will coordinate. SpaceX Modification,
Attachment A Technical Information to Supplement Schedule S, at 44.
5
 Each SpaceX satellite is expected to have a mass of approximately 386 kg or approximately
80x the mass of a typical 3U cubesat. See Application of Space Exploration Holdings, LLC for
Authority to Launch and Operate an NGSO Satellite System (call sign S2983), File No. SAT-
LOA-20161115-00118, Attachment A at 54 (Nov. 15, 2016).
6
 See CSSMA Comments at 4-5, n. 15. Most of those smallsats lack propulsion capability, or
have limited propulsion capabilities ill-suited to perform the maneuvers necessary to
accommodate the SpaceX Modification. As explained in the CSSMA Comments, even those
satellites capable of executing differential drag maneuvers in response to potential conjunction
events will experience substantial capacity loss because they are not operational during those
maneuvers. Id.
7
    See Id. at 5-6 (discussing the unanswered policy questions raised by the SpaceX Modification).
8
 See, e.g., Mitigation of Orbital Debris in the New Space Age, Notice of Proposed Rule Making,
IB Docket No. 18-313, at ¶ 98 (Oct. 25, 2018) (“Orbital Debris NPRM”); Licensing Private
                                                   2


         In the alternative, Planet requests that the Bureau condition any grant of the SpaceX

Modification upon: (i) the company’s compliance with rules and policies adopted in applicable

proceedings; and (ii) the company’s commitment to coordinate physical operations of its

satellites in good faith with both current satellite operators, such as Planet, and current and future

applicants proposing to operate in the 400-600 km orbital altitude range.9 Such a requirement

would ensure the continued ability for Planet and others to have fair and reasonable access to a

critical shared orbital resource. As part of the good faith requirement, SpaceX should be

required to take active responsibility for collision avoidance during orbit raising and end-of-life

de-orbiting through low-Earth orbit. Further, SpaceX should not be permitted to request that

other parties assume the full burden of avoiding collision with SpaceX’s 1,540 satellites.10

Without such constraints, SpaceX could effectively determine which systems could operate in

the 400-600 km orbital altitude range.

         For all of the above reasons and those stated in the CSSMA Comments, Planet urges the

Bureau to defer action on the the SpaceX Modification or, in the alternative, impose conditions

on any grant of the SpaceX Modification.




Remote Sensing Space Systems, Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 83 FR 30592, 30594
(June 29, 2018) (seeking comment on whether the Department of Commerce and the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration should establish debris mitigation requirements).
9
  See, e.g., Space Exploration Holdings, LLC, Application for Approval for Orbital Deployment
and Operating Authority for the SpaceX NGSO Satellite System, Memorandum Opinion, Order,
and Authorization, 33 FCC Rcd 3391, 3396, ¶ 11 (2018) (requiring SpaceX to “coordinate its
physical operations with space stations of NGSO systems operating at similar orbital altitudes”);
Petition for a Declaratory Ruling Granting Access to the U.S. Market for the OneWeb NGSO
FSS System, Order and Declaratory Ruling, 32 FCC Rcd 5366, 5378, ¶ 25(d) (2017) (requiring
OneWeb to “coordinate physical operations of spacecraft with any operator using similar orbits,
for the purpose of eliminating collision risk and minimizing operational impacts”).
10
     See CSSMA Comments, Technical Annex, at Section B.

                                                  3


                                   Respectfully submitted,

                                   /s/ Rich Leshner

Tony Lin                           Rich Leshner
Daniel Landesberg                  Vice President, Government and
Hogan Lovells US LLP               Regulatory Affairs
555 13th Street NW                 Planet Labs Inc.
Washington, DC 20004               645 Harrison Street, Floor 4
                                   San Francisco, CA 94107
Counsel for Planet Labs Inc.



Dated: January 29, 2019




                               4


                                CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE


        I, Daniel Landesberg, hereby certify that on January 29, 2019, a true and correct copy of
this Petition to Defer was sent via U.S. Mail, first class postage prepaid, to the following:

William M. Wiltshire                             Tim Hughes
Paul Caritj                                      Senior Vice President, Global Business and
Harris, Wiltshire, & Grannis LLP                 Government Affairs
1919 M Street NW                                 Space Exploration Technologies Corp.
Suite 800                                        1155 F Street NW
Washington, DC 20036                             Suite 475
                                                 Washington, DC 20004
Counsel for SpaceX

                                                 Patricia Cooper
                                                 Vice President of Satellite Government
                                                 Affairs
                                                 Space Exploration Technologies Corp.
                                                 1155 F Street NW
                                                 Suite 475
                                                 Washington, DC 20004



                                                 /s/ Daniel Landesberg
                                                 Daniel Landesberg



Document Created: 2019-01-29 15:53:48
Document Modified: 2019-01-29 15:53:48

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