FCC is accusing startup for launching satellites without permission

Lloyd Doyle
March 13, 2018

This apparently wasn't a deterrent, as the SpaceBEEs appear to have launched aboard one of India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicles on January 12th.

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which regulates commercial satellites from US companies, made the accusation in an email exchange with Sara Spangelo, CEO of Swarm Technologies which was put online by IEEE Spectrum. The payload included satellites ranging from a primary Indian mapping satellite and dozens of other CubeSats that includes British's Carbonite that will capture HD video of planet's surface, Canada's Telesat which is a satellite-based broadband service, and a bunch of other CubeSats delivered by different countries. No operator was specified, and only ISRO publicly noted that they successfully reached orbit the same day.

The startup envisions to bring down the cost of satellite communications to the magnitude lower than the cost of existing options.

The satellites are now in the sky, but if Swarm Technologies faces enough consequences for the rogue SpaceBees, the startup could come to an early end. The FCC revoked Swarm Technologies' launch application due to safety concerns.

Also on board were four small satellites that probably should not have been there. It feared that the four SpaceBees now orbiting the Earth would pose an unacceptable collision risk for other spacecraft. Benjamin Longmier who is the CFO of Swarm Technology sold his near-space balloon company Aether Industries to Apple in 2015. Its SpaceBee satellite concept, detailed in National Science Foundation grant proposals and FCC applications, would act as gateways for the billions of internet-connected trackers and devices across the globe, particularly those in areas lacking in terrestrial wireless networks. The letter goes on to explain that the decision was made at the request of the International Bureau; it will provide time to determine "the impact of the applicant's apparent unauthorized launch and operation of four satellites..." FCC denied the permission for the launch citing its extremely small size of 0.25U CubeSats which is less than the minimum size that can be tracked in the space. Swarm Technologies proclaim to developed world's smallest two-way communications satellites which are manifested on its website.

According to an investigation by IEEE Spectrum, neither the Indian Space Research Organization nor Spaceflight, the firm that supplied the satellites, could confirm that they check FCC licences for all customers.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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