Space News' Viasat asks FCC to halt Starlink launches while it seeks court ruling says:
Viasat formally asked the Federal Communications Commission to stay an April 27 license modification that allows SpaceX to continue building out the broadband constellation, which already numbers more than 1,600 satellites.
Starlink surpassed the 1,584 satellites permitted under its previous license in 550-kilometer orbits soon after launching a fresh batch of 52 satellites May 15. SpaceX is slated to launch 60 more May 26.
Viasat’s bid to stop or at least slow Starlink’s expansion rests on convincing a federal appeals court that the FCC was legally obligated to assess the megaconstellation’s environmental impact before approving SpaceX’s request to more than double the number of satellites it intends to operate from 550 kilometers.
Carlsbad, California-based Viasat, which provides broadband services from geostationary orbit (GEO), had petitioned the FCC to conduct an environmental review before granting the license modification as part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which currently categorically exempts satellite systems, but says this did not happen despite megaconstellations bringing new considerations for regulators.
The FCC by and large rejected the requests when it approved the license modification, although it did urge SpaceX to continue to work closely with astronomers to mitigate the brightness of its satellites. The FCC offered several reasons for not performing an environmental assessment, from questioning whether light pollution is covered by NEPA to noting that the Federal Aviation Administration does its own environmental reviews as part of the launch licensing process.
Viasat said in a May 21 filing to the FCC that NEPA required it to at least consider environmental harms before granting SpaceX’s application, such as orbital debris, light pollution and the effect disintegrating satellites could have on the atmosphere.
Question: Does NEPA indeed currently categorically exempt satellite systems? If so, can there be any legal basis to Viasat's request in its "May 21 filing to the FCC that NEPA required it to at least consider environmental harms before granting SpaceX’s application, such as... light pollution..."?