Due to a little-known 1992 law, SpaceX was forced to shut down their live broadcast of a Falcon 9 launch nine minutes after liftoff.
If you were watching the live stream of the most recent SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch, you may have noticed that the video oddly seems to have cut short at a certian point. And it is all because of an obscure law passed in 1992 that bars companies from broadcasting directly from space.
SpaceX complied with the law by cutting its video short, and apparently the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration is currently in the process of implementing it, according to reports. The law is was passed over national security concerns, although it hasn’t been specified what broadcasting from space would jeopardize on that front.
The broadcast in question was of the March 30 SpaceX launch of a Falcon 9 rocket to bring 10 Iridium satellites into orbit. The feed was cut just under 10 minutes after liftoff, as SpaceX did not have the requisite permission from NOAA to broadcast the second stage, something that NOAA itself confirmed.
“The National and Commercial Space Program Act requires a commercial remote sensing license for companies having the capacity to take an image of Earth while on orbit,” the NOAA statement reads. “Now that launch companies are putting video cameras on stage 2 rockets that reach an on-orbit status, all such launches will be held to the requirements of the law and its conditions. SpaceX applied and received a license from NOAA that included conditions on their capability to live-stream from space. Conditions on Earth imaging to protect national security are common to all licenses for launches with on-orbit capabilities.”
A statement from the SpaceX website on the Falcon 9 rocket follows below.
Falcon 9 is a two-stage rocket designed and manufactured by SpaceX for the reliable and safe transport of satellites and the Dragon spacecraft into orbit. Falcon 9 is the first orbital class rocket capable of reflight. SpaceX believes rocket reusability is the key breakthrough needed to reduce the cost of access to space and enable people to live on other planets.
Falcon 9 was designed from the ground up for maximum reliability. Falcon 9’s simple two-stage configuration minimizes the number of separation events — and with nine first-stage engines, it can safely complete its mission even in the event of an engine shutdown.
Falcon 9 made history in 2012 when it delivered Dragon into the correct orbit for rendezvous with the International Space Station, making SpaceX the first commercial company ever to visit the station. Since then Falcon 9 has made numerous trips to space, delivering satellites to orbit as well as delivering and returning cargo from the space station for NASA. Falcon 9, along with the Dragon spacecraft, was designed from the outset to deliver humans into space and under an agreement with NASA, SpaceX is actively working toward this goal.
Falcon 9 delivers payloads to space aboard the Dragon spacecraft or inside a composite fairing.
Dragon carries cargo in the spacecraft’s pressurized capsule and unpressurized trunk, which can also accommodate secondary payloads. In the future, Dragon will carry astronauts in the pressurized capsule as well.
The payload fairing is for the delivery of satellites to destinations in low Earth orbit (LEO), geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) and beyond.
The second stage, powered by a single Merlin vacuum engine, delivers Falcon 9’s payload to the desired orbit. The second stage engine ignites a few seconds after stage separation, and can be restarted multiple times to place multiple payloads into different orbits. For maximum reliability, the second stage has redundant igniter systems. Like the first stage, the second stage is made from a high-strength aluminum-lithium alloy.
The interstage is a composite structure that connects the first and second stages and holds the release and separation system. Falcon 9 uses an all-pneumatic stage separation system for low-shock, highly reliable separation that can be tested on the ground, unlike pyrotechnic systems used on most launch vehicles.
Falcon 9’s first stage incorporates nine Merlin engines and aluminum-lithium alloy tanks containing liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene (RP-1) propellant. After ignition, a hold-before-release system ensures that all engines are verified for full-thrust performance before the rocket is released for flight. Then, with thrust greater than five 747s at full power, the Merlin engines launch the rocket to space. Unlike airplanes, a rocket’s thrust actually increases with altitude; Falcon 9 generates more than 1.7 million pounds of thrust at sea level but gets up to over 1.8 million pounds of thrust in the vacuum of space. The first stage engines are gradually throttled near the end of first-stage flight to limit launch vehicle acceleration as the rocket’s mass decreases with the burning of fuel.