Hello fellow explorers,

I've been looking into amateur satellite and rocket launches. Now, I'm by no means saying I'm an expert and have all my plans ready for launch. However, hypothetically if I were to launch a home made satellite, that followed the FCC regulations in transmission of data, would I need to do anything else? Is there some sort of required registry for satellites I would have to inform? Would I need to work with government programs to confirm my orbit does not conflict with any low and high earth orbits? Are there any international safety regulations I need to fulfill?

I know this is a loaded question, however, I guess is space the modern day wild west or is there a system and regulation that needs to be followed.

Thank you all, Nate

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Easiest, least hassle: Contact someone who already has an object in orbit and buy it. $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Sep 21, 2018 at 19:26
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Talk about perfect timing. Earlier today I ran into this: groundbasedspacematters.com/index.php/2017/06/30/… $\endgroup$ Sep 22, 2018 at 2:32
  • $\begingroup$ You should be able to pay the damage if the object reenters the atmosphere and hits something valuable on ground. Very unlikely, but possibly very expensive. If the object is small, it may be fully destroyed on reentry and any damage on ground is impossible. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Sep 23, 2018 at 14:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Uwe I do agree. I'm curious if there are any insurances for space orbits failing. Do you think SpaceX or Boeing has worked out something to prevent any cost issues with re-entry. I just got a textbook on orbit mechanics, but that does seem like a scary scenario you've brought up. $\endgroup$
    – NateAGeek
    Sep 24, 2018 at 18:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Uwe I actually found some info about my curiosity at space.stackexchange.com/questions/14922/… SpaceX uses a Aon broker to handle the insurance. $\endgroup$
    – NateAGeek
    Sep 24, 2018 at 18:45

2 Answers 2


Based on your question, I'm assuming that you are in the United States. If that's right, you need to get licenses from NOAA if you are engaged in remote sensing (basically if you have a camera on-board), and you need to get a license from the FCC to transmit/receive radio signals. Assuming you aren't doing the launch yourself, that's all you need to do. The launcher will require an FAA launch license. NOAA and the FCC have their own internal requirements about debris mitigation, national security limitations on sensing, and many other criteria that you'll need to meet. There is however no need to register anything internationally or domestically: the U.S. Department of State takes care of that themselves directly, and you don't need to deconflict your object with others in space. The licensing agencies might impose some limitations on your orbit for those reasons, but it's not something you have to figure out all on your own.

  • $\begingroup$ do you really need a license to receive radio signals, or does that refer to the transmission on the ground (which the satellite would then receive)? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Sep 22, 2018 at 1:00
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh If you're receiving imagery from orbit, yes, you need a license. It's probably a legacy thing from when most imagery from space was from spy satellites. $\endgroup$ Sep 22, 2018 at 2:34
  • $\begingroup$ @LorenPechtel There is really a "receiving license" for imagery from satellites (under some situations), separate from the license to transmit them? How is that enforced exactly? In any event, I'm hoping then that the sentence will be clarified. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Sep 22, 2018 at 4:11
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh Remember how SpaceX suddenly stopped transmitting when their birds reached orbit? That was because someone pointed out they didn't have the required license. $\endgroup$ Sep 22, 2018 at 14:37
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @LorenPechtel to transmit. I've asked about receive. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Sep 22, 2018 at 15:26

The NASA 101 guide on Cubesats provide some information on licensing procedures and qualifications, https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/nasa_csli_cubesat_101_508.pdf. I know it's good practice to embed the information but in this case it's pretty long. In a nutshell - you need to get RF and Remote Sensing (if applicable) licenses and also your launch provider and integrator will ask for a good deal of documents and qualifications for the flight certification, this includes the Orbital Debris Mitigation Compliance for instance.

This document is for Cubesats only of course and is kind of geared towards people applying to the CSLI, which is a NASA initiative somehow more aimed at universities or research than fully commercial projects. It is also from a US perspective. Yet, I believe it provides some good information to get started with.


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