Commerce Department Releases New Regulations to Support U.S. Leadership in Commercial Satellite Remote Sensing Industry

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Department of Commerce released new regulations to improve the licensing process for private U.S. satellite remote sensing operations, helping ensure continued U.S. leadership in a critical commercial space industry. The new final rules increase openness and transparency in the licensing process, will eliminate most restrictions on how licensed remote sensing systems may be operated, such as limits on the resolution of imagery, and prohibit the government from imposing additional conditions after a license has been issued. Most importantly, the new regulations require the U.S. government to assess the remote sensing data already planned or available in the market to determine whether any conditions should be applied to U.S. licensees.

“The streamlined remote sensing rules reflect the Trump Administration’s commitment to advance American leadership throughout a diverse array of commercial space industries,” said Secretary Ross. “We heard the message from industry loud and clear that previous regulations were too restrictive and were preventing the realization of unique economic opportunities from commercial satellite remote sensing systems. I am grateful to President Trump, Vice President Pence, the National Space Council, NOAA, and the Office of Space Commerce for their leadership in bringing these new rules to fruition.”

The new regulations also recognize the growing role of artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and other advanced technologies in extracting unique information from remote sensing. For instance, the regulations will only apply to the remote sensing instrument and components that support its operation. This will result in a streamlined regulatory approach that helps U.S. companies stay ahead in the rapidly evolving global market for remote sensing services.

“American industry is driving innovation in commercial remote sensing at an increasingly rapid rate. These streamlined and updated rules are critical to ensuring U.S. regulations keep up with the speed of innovation and ensure the United States remains the flag of choice for commercial space businesses,” said Scott Pace, Ph.D., Deputy Assistant to the President and Executive Secretary of the National Space Council. “The improved regulatory process for U.S. satellite operators reaffirms the Administration’s support for space commerce as set out by President Trump in Space Policy
Directive-2. I am grateful to Secretary Ross for this accomplishment, which cuts red tape to promote economic growth, minimizes uncertainty for industry, and advances American leadership in space commerce.”

The new rules are a result of extensive discussions with U.S. industry and other federal agencies, reflecting a greater understanding of the speed, direction, growing importance, and economic value of commercial remote sensing data. The new regulations further advance the objectives in the Administration’s Space Policy Directive-2, “Streamlining Regulations on the Commercial Use of Space,” to improve the regulatory environment for U.S. commercial space activities.