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Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs FAQ's

It is unlawful for any person who is subject to the jurisdiction or control of the United States, directly or through any subsidiary or affiliate to operate a private remote sensing space system without possession of a valid license issued under the Act and the regulations. Any person(s) operating of a private remote sensing system within the United States or a U.S. person operating a system outside of the United States.

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.

Yes, there is a specific formal application format to apply for a license. Refer to Appendix A of 15 CFR Part 960 (the regulations) for the required information.


NOAA reviews license applications, in consultation with the following agencies: U.S. Department of Defense (for national security purposes) and U.S. Department of State (for foreign policy purposes). 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 60 days, consistent with its statutory authority.

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.

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:

Licensees are required to provide data in response to the Annual Compliance Certification.

Anomaly means an unexpected event or abnormal characteristic affecting the operations of a system that could indicate a significant technical malfunction or security threat. Anomalies include any significant deviation from the orbit and data collection characteristics of the system.

Specific questions regarding mission assurance will be addressed on a case-by-case basis. In general, mission assurance and similar technical activities, such as navigation, are defined in 15 CFR 960.2(b). Please submit an Initial Contact Form on this website to begin the process of determining if your sensors qualify as mission assurance instruments, and include all planned or possible uses of your instrument.

Pursuant to 15 CFR 960.6, systems may only be tiered with respect to capabilities that are already available from foreign competitors. It is possible, however, that the availability of data may change between the issuance of the license and your launch. Should this happen, under § 960.6(c) your system will be re-tiered. Additionally, under 960.6(c), your system may be re-tiered after license issuance due to new domestic or foreign data becoming available. We encourage you to make us aware of any available domestic or foreign data you believe to be substantially the same as yours.

NOAA’s jurisdiction is addressed in 15 CFR 960.2(a). A license may be required "for the operation of private remote sensing space systems within the United States or by a U.S. person" (see definitions of "operate," "private remote sensing space system," and "U.S. person" in § 960.4). If you are uncertain if your system may require a NOAA license, please submit an Initial Contact Form on this website.

Yes. Please follow the steps laid out in 15 CFR 960.13 to request a modification to any condition in your license. If you would like to request NOAA to waive a condition in the license prior to license issuance, please follow the steps laid out in § 960.12.

If information in your license is incorrect or becomes incorrect at any point, please follow the steps laid out in 15 CFR 960.13 to request a license modification. A license modification must be requested and approved before any action is taken that will contradict the material facts listed in the license. To take any action that would change a material fact without first receiving a license modification is a violation of the regulations. 15 CFR 960.16(d).

If material facts in your application become inaccurate before license issuance, you must immediately correct them under 15 CFR 960.5(d). Then, once your license is issued, only material facts that are listed in the license that change require a modification request to NOAA.

An instrumentality of the U.S. Government is akin to a U.S. Government agency. If you believe you are an instrumentality of the U.S. Government, please contact CRSRA for a determination.

As described in 15 CFR 960.12, a waiver is a request for a license condition to be waived prior to license issuance. As described in § 960.13, a modification is a request to change either a material fact or a condition in an issued license. A licensee may appeal a license tier determination, license denial, license condition(s), denial of modification request, or replacement of an existing license or license condition within 21 days of the action per § 960.18–19.