Office of Space Commerce Announces New Regulatory Division Head

NOAA’s Office of Space Commerce (OSC) announces the selection of Sarah Brothers, Ph.D., as Director of OSC’s Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs (CRSRA) Division, effective January 2, 2024.

Dr. Brothers is an expert in remote sensing technologies and analysis with experience developing and implementing national space policies in the commercial, civil, and security space sectors. In prior positions with The Aerospace Corporation, the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, she analyzed and assessed operational impacts of emerging commercial space technologies to enable a more competitive U.S. space industry. Dr. Brothers holds a Ph.D. in geology from the University of Texas at Austin, where her research focused on remote sensing studies of aeolian systems on Earth and Mars.

“Sarah is a recognized remote sensing expert whose continuing contributions to the implementation of NOAA’s regulatory reform led to licensing speed improvements and the removal of burdensome restrictions,” said Richard DalBello, Director of the Office of Space Commerce. “Her insight and leadership will be crucial as we expand our regulatory scope to implement the new framework for novel space mission authorization and supervision.”

CRSRA regulates the operation of private remote sensing space systems, subject to the jurisdiction or control of the United States, while preserving essential national security interests, foreign policy, and international obligations. CRSRA was reorganized to become a division of OSC in November 2022.

CRSRA issued new remote sensing regulations in 2020 to streamline its regulatory framework and processes. As a result, CRSRA has reduced its average time to issue a license for a complete application from 48 days in 2020 to 14 days in 2023. CRSRA also eliminated 69 restrictive operating conditions from 11 of its licenses in 2023. CRSRA currently oversees 78 licensees holding 99 licenses for 1,386 satellites, of which 339 are in orbit.

With Dr. Brothers at the helm, CRSRA plans to continue evolving with the U.S. commercial space sector. She is leading efforts to establish a modernized, online licensing system. To meet the goals of the White House’s recently released United States Novel Space Activities Authorization and Supervision Framework, CRSRA is working with partners in the federal government and industry to evaluate possible regulatory approaches and best practices for emerging types of commercial space activity.