Who is required to obtain an operating license?

Any person subject to the jurisdiction or control of the United States who wishes to operate a private remote-sensing space system, including but not limited to: an individual who is a citizen of the United States; a corporation, partnership, association or other entity organized or existing under the laws of the United States or any state, territory, or possession thereof; or any other private space system operator having substantial connections with the United States or deriving substantial benefits from U.S. law that support its remote-sensing satellite operations. Questions concerning licensing may be addressed to NOAA.

What is a Remote sensing space system, or Licensed system, or System?

For purposes of the Land Remote Sensing Policy Space Act of 1992, all three terms refer to the same definition as found in 15 CFR Part 960, Section 960.3: means any device, instrument, or combination thereof, the space-borne platform upon which it is carried, and any related facilities capable of actively or passively sensing the Earths surface, including bodies of water, from space by making use of the properties of the electromagnetic waves emitted, reflected, or diffracted by the sensed objects. A System consists of a finite number of satellites and associated facilities, including those for tasking, receiving, and storing data. Small, hand-held cameras shall not be considered remote sensing space systems.

How do I obtain a license?

You may obtain a license through a written application to the Assistant Administrator, NOAA Satellite and Information Services (NESDIS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs, 1335 East-West Highway SSMC-1 / G-101, Silver Spring, MD 20910

Can I discuss my application with someone before formally submitting it?

Yes, we encourage prospective applicants to contact CRSRA for a non-binding consultation to discuss the proposed application. This consultation will help avoid delays once the application is formally submitted.

Is there an application form?

No, there is no formal application form to apply for a license. Refer to Appendix 1 of 15 CFR Part 960 (the regulations) for the required information. We encourage applicants to provide information in the order it is listed in the Appendix.

What information is required in a license application?

The applicant must provide details on the following: corporate structure, system operational/technical characteristics, expected dates of system operation, launch information, data acquisition and distribution plans, data reproduction and pricing policy, planned agreements with foreign entities, and plans for safe disposition of system at the end of operations.

Is there a filing or license maintenance fee?


Who reviews license applications and how long does the review process take?

NOAA reviews license applications, in consultation with the following agencies: U.S. Department of Defense (for national security purposes), U.S. Department of State (for foreign policy purposes) and U.S. Department of the Interior (for matters pertaining to the storage of data in the National Land Remote Sensing Data Archive). NOAA may also consult with other U.S. Government agencies as appropriate. Once an application has been determined to be complete, NOAA must issue its determination within 120 days, consistent with its statutory authority.

What operations does the license authorize?

The license applies only to the operations (directly or via an affiliate, or subsidiary) of a private remote-sensing space system by a U.S. entity or a non-U.S. entity, on a case-by-case basis (taking into account such factors as receiving a U.S. launch, operating a U.S. ground station, etc.). The license is valid for the operational life of the system or until the U.S. Secretary of Commerce determines that the license is not in compliance with the Act, regulations, or the terms of the license. It is non-transferable. The operating license does not preclude requirements for the licensee to obtain related permits and licenses for exports, use of radio frequencies, and launch.

What terms and conditions are included in a license?

The licensee must do the following: operate its system in a manner which preserves the national security and observes the international obligations of the United States, maintain positive control of spacecraft operations, maintain a tasking record in conjunction with other record-keeping requirements, limit imaging during periods when national security or international obligations and/or foreign policies may be compromised, provide U.S. Government access to and use of data when required for national security or foreign policy purposes, provide for U.S. Government review of all significant foreign agreements, obtain U.S. Government approval for any encryption devices used, make available unenhanced data to a "sensed state" on reasonable cost terms and conditions, make available unenhanced data as requested by the U.S. National Satellite and Remote Sensing Data Archive, and obtain a priori U.S. Government approval of all plans and procedures to deal with safe disposition of the satellite.

Are there other U.S. Government agencies I should consult with prior to launch and operations?

Yes. A private operator must also receive approval from other U.S. Government agencies for other aspects of their systems. Specifically, a private launch operator is required to obtain a launch license from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Aviation Administration if the launch vehicle is operated by a US person for launch either inside and outside the United States. Satellite operators should consult with their launch provider about information required by the FAA for a payload review and other licensing requirements. In addition, a private operator is required to obtain approval of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission for its use of radio frequency spectrum.

Remotely-sensed data are not subject to export control. However, technical data related to the design or operation of satellites and ground receiving stations currently require export licenses. If a private remote-sensing satellite operator wishes to export equipment or technology to support its system, that operator may first require the appropriate export licenses from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security (for items on the Commerce Control List) or the U.S. Department of State's Office of Defense Trade Controls (for items on the U.S. Munitions List). Questions about these matters should be addressed to these specific agencies.

A plain language guide, “Introduction to U.S. Export Controls for the Commercial Space Industry,” prepared by DOC and DOT/FAA, can be downloaded from the DOC Office of Space Commerce website at: http://www.space.commerce.gov/regulations/satellite-export-control-regulations/

My corporation is not publicly traded and does not file SEC 10K and 10Q forms, what financial information am I required to submit?

Licensees are still required to provide financial documentation even though they are not publicly traded. Information required would be information similar to that required in the Security and Exchange Commission's (SEC) 10K and 10Q forms, which includes, organization (name and incorporation date and state of incorporation), statement of corporate focus, current business plans, any subsidiary corporations, employees, properties, any legal proceedings, management discussion and analysis of financial condition and results of operations: operating revenue, net loss total assets, long term obligations for last 5 years. Provide summary compensation table for corporate board and any independent accounting firm assessment of your corporation. Licensees are encouraged to review the SEC 10K and 10Q forms for further guidance on this information.

What information is required to be filed to meet the Monitoring and Compliance Program requirements?

Licensees are required to provide data in response to the Annual Compliance Audit which includes, but is not limited to, changes to corporate structure, board membership (including citizenship), ownership, and financial investments. It also reviews agreements which impact the national security, foreign policy and international obligations of the United States, and the concept of operations. Additionally, the Annual Compliance Audit includes an on-site audit conducted at least annually, and requires Licensees with operational systems to provide Annual Operational and Record Keeping information as well as Quarterly Reports.

When must a data protection plan be filed?

A Data Protection Plan (DPP) must be submitted no later than 120-days prior to launch. Applicants and Licensees should consult the resources page for additional guidance on developing a DPP.

What is a system anomaly or system deviation?

Any operational condition or action of the remote sensing space system that is different from those contained in the NOAA license granted to operate such a system, in particular, those found in paragraph 4 of the license. E.g., any condition or action that causes operational control to be conducted outside a location from within the United States, U.S. territories and protectorates; or, tasking of the system occurs in a manner not authorized under the terms of the license; or, communication with the system is lost or interrupted; or, any new orbit or change in orbit; or, any actions taken to protect the system on orbit; or, any other operational deviation or proposed deviation that would violate the conditions of the license.


What is a hand-held camera?

To qualify as a "small, hand-held camera," a camera must be held in a living human hand at the time it is operated--i.e., while it is recording data or imagery. In other words, this exemption applies to human beings located in space (such as astronauts on the ISS) recording data or imagery using a camera that they hold and operate with their hands. This exclusion does not apply to cameras that are merely small, nor to cameras that are merely capable of being operated by hand.


© NOAA CRSRA Licensing Program 2017