What are the NOAA’s Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs (CRSRA)?

Note: This entire section was based on the materials elaborated by Allan Robinson (NOAA Licensing Analyst) and in the contents of the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section in the NOAA webiste. These references are listed as 20, 21 and 22 in the "References" section.


In order to operate a private earth remote sensing satellite in the United States every individual needs a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) private remote sensing space system Operating License. In this context, private must be understood as "non-U.S government". This is a legal requirement:


  • The National and Commercial Space Programs Act of 2010 (formerly the 1992 Land Remote Sensing Policy Act), provides no person who is subject to the jurisdiction or control of the U.S. may operate any private remote sensing space system without a license.

  • The law authorized the Secretary of Commerce to license private sector parties to operate private remote sensing space systems.

  • By law, the Secretary can grant a license only upon determining, in writing that the applicant (licensee) will comply with the requirements of the Act, any regulations issued pursuant to the Act and any applicable international obligations and national security concerns of the United States.

  • The Secretary delegated authority to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

  • NOAA delegated authority to the Assistant Administrator (AA) to the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service.

  • AA delegated to Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs (CRSRA).


A Remote sensing space system  means any device, instrument, or combination thereof, the space-borne platform upon which it is carried, and any related facilities capable of actively or passively sensing the Earths surface, including bodies of water, from space by making use of the properties of the electromagnetic waves emitted, reflected, or diffracted by the sensed objects. A System consists of a finite number of satellites and associated facilities, including those for tasking, receiving, and storing data. Small, hand-held cameras shall not be considered remote sensing space systems. Therefore, CubeSats need a NOAA Operating License prior to be launched if they are not part of a government project or research.20,21,22


How is the Licensing Process?

Play with the interactive content below (click on the sentences) to review the steps of the licensing process. If you need more information, check the references 20, 21, 22 (links redirecting to them are provided in the "References" section).


License General Conditions

Follow the presentation below in order to obtain a general knowledge of the conditions related to the NOAA’s commercial remote sensing regulatory affairs license.