The live stream of the recent SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch was cut short, and this was because of an obscure law that was passed in 1992.
SpaceX is just following the law, which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration just recently started implementing. The law is supposed to protect national security, but it is unclear how exactly it does that.
SpaceX Falcon 9 Live Stream Cut Short
On March 30, SpaceX launched the Falcon 9 to bring 10 more Iridium satellites to low-Earth orbit. As usual, the company live streamed the rocket launch, but surprisingly, SpaceX cut the feed about nine minutes into the flight.
According to SpaceX engineers, it did not have permission from the NOAA to broadcast images from the second stage of the rocket. The NOAA confirmed this in a statement, saying that SpaceX needed a "commercial remote sensing license" if it wanted to take images and videos of the Earth from a spacecraft in orbit.
The restrictions are related to a law passed in 1992, as part of the National and Commercial Space Program Act. The ruling requires private space companies to get a license to broadcast images and videos featuring the Earth while in space.
It is unclear why the NOAA decided to enforce the ruling for the March 30 launch of the Falcon 9, but the agency gave SpaceX only a few days notice, when it takes 120 days to acquire the necessary license. SpaceX was able to negotiate a temporary license for the recent Falcon 9 launch, but it was still not allowed to live stream video from orbit.
Obscure Law Should Be Replaced
To grant SpaceX the license to broadcast images and videos from orbit, the NOAA will need to check the implication of the company's imaging systems on national security.
However, considering the low quality of the live stream, and how the rocket and its smoke trail obscures the view of Earth, questions rise on how much of a threat it is to national security.
According to industry experts, the restrictions suddenly being enforced by the NOAA are based on an outdated law that only serves government bureaucracy. According to Harvard University astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell, the 1992 law was enforced because private companies were starting to take high-resolution images similar to spy satellites.
However, he told Gizmodo that this is now "a classic case of wasteful and burdensome government regulation" that is now preventing people from enjoying the marvels of spacecraft technology and the efforts to conquer the great beyond.