CubeSats Need Coordination Too

Space News reminds readers to coordinate and register CubeSat frequencies.

The SpaceNews Editor writes:

In the midst of the cubesat revolution that is opening up a whole new world of space applications to people and organizations of ordinary means comes a reminder from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which is responsible for regulating and coordinating radiofrequency transmissions of all types: The existing rules requiring ITU member states to register their satellite systems do not discriminate based on size.

That means, in a nutshell, that cubesats and other nanosatellites, like their larger operational cousins, must be entered into the ITU-managed database of satellite frequencies and orbital slots. Speaking at the International Astronautical Congress in Beijing, officials with the United Nations-affiliated ITU noted that cubesats draw on finite spectrum — however marginally — and have the potential to interfere with one another and with other systems. These officials urged ITU members to register cubesats and other microsatellites at least two years before launch.

Not only are cubesats proliferating, their missions are becoming increasingly complex. Most cubesats today operate in a frequency band set aside for so-called amateur radio services, which can accommodate low-data-rate transmissions. But as applications become more bandwidth intensive, operators will increasingly be forced to seek out spectrum in other bands. Moreover, though cubesats today typically are allocated bandwidth on a secondary-user basis, meaning they have to work around primary users, there is no reason such missions could not be granted primary-user status.

For cubesats operating in the amateur bands, the FCC relies on the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) for frequency coordination — typically the operator must submit a coordination letter from the group with its license application. But the flood of activity threatens to overwhelm the small, volunteer organization: Of the cubesats slated to deploy through the remainder of the year, 40 are being coordinated by the IARU.

Read the full Space News story at

AMSAT-UK hosts the IARU Amateur Satellite Frequency Coordination pages at

Information on frequency coordination can be found at

ITU Radio Regulations
Articles 9 and 11 cover coordination and notification.  Resolution 757, is an effort to simplify the administrative procedure for small, short life projects, and Resolution 646 applies to some amateur-satellite service stations.