Companies around the globe are launching an increasing number of satellites, crowding Earth’s orbit in an effort to satisfy the ravenous on-demand desire for more broadband, satellite television and communications.

In the past five years, the number of operational satellites has jumped 40 percent, and nearly 1,400 now orbit the Earth. Industry officials say that number could more than double in five years as a revolution in technology has made satellites smaller and more affordable. Entrepreneurs eye the ethereal real estate a couple of hundred miles up as a potentially lucrative new market.

Companies such as OneWeb, Boeing and SpaceX plan to put up constellations of small satellites that could number in the hundreds, if not thousands, and beam the Internet to the billions of people not yet connected.

Just last month, Boeing filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission that would allow it to send up nearly 3,000 satellites for broadband services.

But U.S. officials are concerned about all the traffic in space and the lack of oversight. Although the Pentagon tracks objects orbiting the globe and warns of close approaches, it does not have the power to order an operator to move a satellite out of the way to avoid a collision.

Some members of Congress say a civilian agency, such as the Federal Aviation Administration, should be made responsible for managing satellite traffic. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., has led that effort, saying the Pentagon should focus instead “on how do we fight and win wars in space.”

He has introduced legislation that would give the FAA authority to monitor objects in space and play the role of traffic cop, warning operators when satellites are dangerously close to one another.

The FAA would have the power to order operators to move satellites when necessary, Bridenstine said, and to require that satellites have propulsion systems to maneuver and transponders for better tracking. It would be up to the FAA, not Congress, to come up with the exact regulations, he said.

“As space becomes more congested and contested and competitive, there needs to be an agency with unambiguous authority that can compel somebody to maneuver,” Bridenstine said.

There is no guarantee the bill will pass anytime soon. And if it does, giving the FAA jurisdiction in space would require additional resources at a time of tight budgets. Creating rules of the road in space would also be an immense and complicated regulatory challenge. Bridenstine said he would favor only “light-touch” regulations, but some interested parties fear a new set of rules would impose a costly burden on U.S. satellite operators and put them at a disadvantage with competitors in other countries that would not have to abide by them.

Tom Stroup, the president of the Satellite Industry Association, said the industry “wants to make sure that any transition that takes place is carefully thought through.” The FAA, or any other government agency tasked with the job, should have “sufficient resources to do it properly,” he said.

Any regulation should be drafted so that it “doesn’t drive business away,” he said.

And the rules have to provide “an international solution,” he added, palatable to foreign governments and businesses, much the way air traffic is managed across international borders.

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