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On Friday morning, SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket into space and later deployed 10 Iridium communications satellites into low-Earth orbit as planned. But, unexpectedly for most watching, the company's webcast was precluded from showing the mission in its entirety.
At T+ 9:00 minutes, just two seconds before the rocket's second-stage engine cut off from firing, the video from space ended. The launch commentator, SpaceX engineer Michael Hammersley, explained earlier in the broadcast that, "Due to some restrictions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, SpaceX will be intentionally ending live video coverage of the 2nd stage just prior to engine shutdown."
Asked about this on Friday morning, a NOAA spokesman was not aware of the situation. "I can only think it's an error," Chris Vaccaro told Ars. "I would double check with them (SpaceX)." NOAA has promised more information will be forthcoming.
We did double check with SpaceX. It was definitely an issue with NOAA, the rocket company said. Apparently NOAA recently asserted that cameras on the second stage of the Falcon 9 rocket, which SpaceX uses for engineering purposes, qualify as a remote sensing system, which are subject to NOAA's regulation. A provisional license obtained by SpaceX for Friday's launch of the Iridium-5 mission required it to end views once the second stage reached orbit.
This raises some questions about the real purpose behind NOAA's action, as the regulation specifically exempts "small, hand-held cameras." SpaceX intends to obtain a full license for such camera views, and as of now there is apparently no restriction in place for SpaceX's next launch of a NASA cargo ship from Florida, happening as early as Monday.
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