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Spectrum Certification Process


The U.S. Capitol building at sunset.
The U.S. Capitol building at sunset.

It is NASA policy that any NASA satellite mission, whether directly developed and operated by NASA or those supported through contracts or other financial agreements, that require the use of the electromagnetic spectrum for transmission, reception, or both shall follow the United States spectrum regulatory rules and processes, as well as all applicable international spectrum regulations.

› NASA Policy Directive 2570.5E, NASA Electromagnetic Spectrum Management

Spectrum Manager

As a first step, all missions and projects requiring the use of the electromagnetic spectrum for transmission, reception, or both should contact the associated Center/Facility Spectrum Manager (SM) to discuss the electromagnetic spectrum operations concept and determine the regulatory status. If no clear NASA Center is involved, the mission or project should contact the NASA National Spectrum Program Manager. The NASA Headquarters office of Spectrum Policy and Planning can also assist.

The Center/Facility Spectrum Manager or NASA National Spectrum Program Manager will provide assistance during all phases of a mission or project from conceptual, pre-proposal efforts through formulation and implementation. The SM will support the project at each review in the project life cycle and assist with design and spectrum considerations such as frequency selection, conformance to regulatory constraints and other electromagnetic spectrum parameters. A key element of this support is assisting with or preparing inputs for spectrum certification as early in the acquisition and procurement cycles as possible.

› Spectrum Points of Contact

The next step in the spectrum authorization and licensing process is the determination of the Federal or Non-Federal status of the system; the status defines which regulatory agency and rules are involved for frequency authorization.

  • For stations owned and operated by a Federal Agency (e.g., NASA), the use of radio frequencies are authorized by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)
  • If a non-government frequency is involved, NTIA coordinates with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
  • For all other situations (i.e., non-Federal), stations are licensed by the FCC, and if a government frequency is involved, the FCC coordinates with NTIA.

Federal System

For a Federal system, the frequency authorization process is well defined by the NTIA Manual, and the satellite project should work directly with the Center Spectrum Manager to pursue system spectrum certification and frequency authorization. All satellite systems, regardless of their classification and use of the formal NASA life-cycle process and reviews must obtain certification of spectrum support and frequency authorization for each frequency used.

› NTIA Spectrum Management
› Manual of Regulations and Procedures for Federal Radio Frequency Management (NTIA)

Non-Federal Station

For non-Federal designated systems affiliated with or supported by NASA, the non-NASA owner and/or operator of the satellite and electromagnetic spectrum systems must obtain spectrum licensing through the appropriate FCC process. When submitting spectrum licensing applications, the non-NASA owner and/or operator of the satellite and EM spectrum systems should include detailed information concerning the ownership and operations of the system including, as appropriate, references to contract or other agreement documents.

For experimental operations (Part 5 of FCC Rules), there are no specific bands identified in the FCC rules, and operations are on a temporary, non-interference basis (i.e., the operations can neither cause interference nor claim protection from interference). Commercial satellite operations (Part 25 of FCC Rules) may have additional protections if operated as a primary allocated service in certain frequency bands.

The NASA mission and project management should ensure that during any formal reviews, the non-Federal entity is progressing with obtaining FCC license authorization. While technical assistance can be provided by NASA, it is the responsibility of the non-Federal entity to obtain licensing from the FCC.

› FCC Spectrum Topics
› FCC Rules and Regulations: Code of Federal Regulations Title 47