About the Licensing of Private Remote Sensing Space Systems

Welcome to NOAA CRSRA Licensing Program. This website is intended to provide U.S. laws, regulations, policies, and guidance pertaining to the operation of private remote sensing satellite systems. Pursuant to the National and Commercial Space Programs Act (NCSPA or Act), 51 U.S.C. § 60101, et seq, (PDF) responsibilities have been delegated from the Secretary of Commerce to the Assistant Administrator for NOAA Satellite and Information Services (NOAA/NESDIS) for the licensing of the operations of private space-based remote sensing systems.

In accordance with the Act, the regulations 15 CFR Part 960 (PDF) concerning the licensing of private remote sensing space systems have been promulgated.

NOAA/CRSRA encourages consultation meetings with potential applicants before a license application is submitted. These meetings will be informal and are not considered part of the agency record of an application.

Image of the Great Lakes

License Application Process

NOAA CRSRA strongly encourages potential applicants to review and file an Initial Contact Form to help NOAA assess whether a license application would be required for a proposed satellite system. This form is used for informational purposes only and is considered non-binding. If any information included on this form is considered by a potential applicant to be confidential or proprietary, the applicant must indicate this when submitting it to NOAA CRSRA. You can find the Initial Contact Form (ICF) at this link, Initial Contact Form (Google Doc). You can also contact CRSRA at for more information.

If it is determined that the proposed system requires a NOAA license, use the Application Guide (.DOCX) to provide the required information to CRSRA. CRSRA will provide consultation with the applicant to complete the application. When it is deemed ready for formal review, CRSRA will send the license application to the USG Agency partners for a completeness review. This process will take no longer than 7 days. After the application is determined to be complete, please allow for up to 60 days to process the license application.

General Information

Who is Required to Apply For a License?

Any person(s) operating a private remote sensing system within the United States or a U.S. person operating such a system outside of the United States.

Applying for a License

The process to apply for a license to operate a private remote sensing space system is described in section 15 CFR PART 960 (PDF). This section outlines license application instructions. A person may submit an application for a license in accordance with the specific instructions found in Appendix A of the regulations. In general, a license application should contain a description of the applicant and a description of the system. The license applicant should note that subsequent changes to the design affecting the system’s operational capabilities after a license is awarded may require a license modification. NOAA has up to 60 days to make a determination for the issuance of a license and will coordinate the review process within the U.S. Government.

NOAA has the obligation to keep confidential proprietary information submitted by licensees or potential licensees. Documents considered business confidential or proprietary information may include foreign agreements and supporting documentation that are explicitly designated and marked as business confidential or proprietary by the applicant.

General Licensing Conditions

As set forth in the regulation, 15 CFR PART 960.8-10 (PDF), the conditions for operation of all systems licensed are determined by foreign and domestic availability.

The Kyl-Bingaman Amendment

Consistent with the requirement that licensees operate their systems in a manner that protects national security concerns, foreign policy and international obligations, Section 1064, Public Law No. 104-201, (the 1997 Defense Authorization Act), referred to as the Kyl-Bingaman Amendment, requires that “[a] department or agency of the United States may issue a license for the collection or dissemination by a non-Federal entity of satellite imagery with respect to Israel only if such imagery is no more detailed or precise than satellite imagery of Israel that is available from commercial sources.” Pursuant to that law, the Department of Commerce will make a finding as to the level of detail or precision of satellite imagery of Israel available from commercial sources. Moreover, as the statutory limitation applies to U.S. licensees, the term “commercial sources” is interpreted for purposes of these regulations as referring to satellite imagery so readily and consistently available from non-U.S. commercial entities that the availability of additional imagery from U.S. commercial sources may be permitted.

Notification of Foreign Agreements

A Notice of Foreign Agreement is required when a contract or legal arrangement with a foreign national, entity, or consortium involving foreign nations or entities, only if executing such contract or arrangement would require a license modification under § 960.13.

Contact Us

For all licensing and regulatory affairs inquiries, contact us by:

Mailing Address:
Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs
1335 East-West Highway SSMC-1/G-101
Silver Spring, MD 20910

To submit a licensing query, please use the Initial Contact Form (Google Doc)