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SpaceX stopped broadcasting live video out the rear of the Falcon 9 2nd stage while the engine was firing after they were informed they needed a license to do so. This is further discussed in the questions (and the answers):

This was one of the coolest aspects of their launches, seeing live video of an active rocket engine in space. Stage separation also is right up there. Given they could broadcast if they had the appropriate license, have or will they apply for a license and when will they resume the live onboard video broadcasts?

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    $\begingroup$ While there have been discussions, which tangentially suggest SpaceX are working to resolve the issue, and that NOAA have 120 days to consider a license request, and SpaceX nroadcast the video for government missions which don't require a license, I haven't seen it directly addressed here. However I suspect the answers will be of the form "nobody outsdide of NOAA and SpaceX knows" $\endgroup$ – JCRM Jun 27 '18 at 19:48
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    $\begingroup$ @JCRM some license application submissions to government agencies the US are certainly public and copies made available on web sites A hastily found example is in links here though I think I've seen better examples of FCC applications in this SE stie. While the application the OP is asking about is different, it may also be a matter of public record as well. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jun 27 '18 at 23:39
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh, I have no interest in this subject, I was just pointing out why I felt the question wasn't a duplicate of the above questions. $\endgroup$ – JCRM Jun 28 '18 at 8:25
  • $\begingroup$ Generally, I wonder - after crossing 100km altitude, the rocket is in 'international waters' and it shouldn't need any license to broadcast. $\endgroup$ – SF. Jul 3 '18 at 14:01
  • $\begingroup$ @SF : Sure. There would not be so much of a problem if you are broadcasting between two craft in space . However, broadcasting down to the Earth is a bit different. Suppose you were transmitting on a frequency that, say, an airplane pilot were using for communications, and your craft points its dish down at just the right point as to hit that plane. When it fires its transmission, that may interfere with the flight and cause something dangerous. Thus, a license may still be needed for broadcast back to Earth, to properly clear such potential incidents. $\endgroup$ – The_Sympathizer Mar 15 at 5:46
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Yes. After the Iridium launch in March (which was using a provisional NOAA license) a non-provisional license was granted in May. What appears to be a SpaceX press release about the license is available from the NOAA website.

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Edit: After $200 in fees and a far too long FOIA processes I have retrieved the full text of the license issued to SpaceX (with redactions) it is available here

License to Operate a Private Remote Sensing Space System

I have a pending FOIA appeal for the full unredacted version, I will update this answer when I get it. (Update as of 3/14/19 it is still pending you can see the status here)


Yes, they have been granted 2 licenses by NOAA, you can see all the currently issued remote sensing licenses here. The text of there license for Falcon rockets is:

License to Operate a Private Remote Sensing Space System

On May 2, 2018, the Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs Office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA CRSRA), an agency of the Department of Commerce, granted a license to Space Exploration Technologies, Corp. (SpaceX), to operate a private remote sensing system. The system consists of low resolution cameras on the second stage of the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle, which are utilized to monitor the vehicle and payload deployment during Falcon 9 missions. The Falcon 9 second stage and licensed system will reach orbits that include geosynchronous and low-Earth.

They were also granted a license for MicroSat 1 A/B Satellites (test satellites for there eventual global network).

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  • $\begingroup$ The linked page is a summary & announcement. The actual licenses are quite a few pages of terms as an actual paper document; organizations have even been asked to “surrender” and return them. For a general example, see nesdis.noaa.gov/CRSRA/files/General%20Conditions.pdf $\endgroup$ – Bob Jacobsen Jun 30 '18 at 5:02
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I interpret the status somewhat differently.

According to a NOAA press release, SpaceX did apply and receive a license for the Iridium-5 launch:

SpaceX applied and received a license from NOAA that included conditions on their capability to live-stream from space. Conditions on Earth imaging to protect national security are common to all licenses for launches with on-orbit capabilities. 

I read that to say the video cutoff was due to a NOAA-conveyed decision to specifically not permit video of some particular location(s), not due to a general prohibition due to not getting a license.

Why does that distinction matter (assuming the NOAA release was correct)? There’s never been such a restriction from the Florida launch sites, so the next flights should have video.

More detail: NOAA doesn't publish the actual licenses. (They arguably should, and a FOIA request should get the terms and restrictions, if not the application info) The published summary of SpaceX's current license (From the "Licensees" part of the NOAA CRSRA site FAQ), dated May 2018, but it doesn't say much.

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  • $\begingroup$ Discussions at www.nasaspaceflight.com after the launch suggested that the provisional license had a restriction that video could not be livestreamed. Not that some particular location was involved. Could not find copy or language from the license to confirm, though. $\endgroup$ – BowlOfRed Jun 29 '18 at 16:28
  • $\begingroup$ Some read the NOAA statement above to say that NOAA restricted livestreaming alone. If so, that's very likely to be a legal error on their part: There's a lot of 1st Amendment law that prevents restrictions on the mode of publication of information that can otherwise be legally distributed. Since NOAA seems to have now dropped that restriction, perhaps that is the right explanation of what happened to the Iridium launch: NOAA did it, and then thought better of it. $\endgroup$ – Bob Jacobsen Jun 29 '18 at 16:54

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