In March, surprising news came that a satellite communications company still more or less in stealth mode had launched several small boats in orbit – against the explicit instructions from the FCC. The company, Swarm Technologies, now faces a $ 900,000 penalty from the agency, as well as additional oversight of the continued business.
Swarms SpaceBEE is the beginning of a planned constellation of small satellites that the company intends to offer low cost global connectivity.
Unfortunately, the devices are so small – about a quarter of a standard cubesat, which is already quite small – that FCC felt they would be too difficult to track and did not approve launch.
Swarm, perhaps thinking about forgiveness than writing the papers for permission, launched in January aboard India's PSLV-C40, bringing more than a dozen other passengers to space as well. (I asked Swarm and launcher, Spaceflight, at the time of comment, but never heard back.)
FCC obviously did not like this and started a survey shortly thereafter. According to an FCC press release:
The investigation found that Swarm had launched the four BEEs using an unrelated launch company in India and had illegally transmitted signals between ground stations in Georgia and the satellites for over a week. In addition, the FCC has discovered during the survey that Swarm had also performed unauthorized weather-to-ground station tests and other unauthorized equipment tests before launching small satellites. All of these activities require FCC authorization, and the company had not received such authorization before the activities occurred.
Not good! As a penalty, Swarm Technologies will have to pay the above $ 900,000 and must now send pre-launch reports to the FCC within five days of signing a contract to start and at least 45 days before starting.
The company does not have & # 39; I have put my hands on all the time. Unauthorized launch was a mistake to be sure, but it still hunted for a global constellation and launched three SpaceBEEs a few weeks ago aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9.
Swarm has worked to put concern about tracking to bed; In fact, the company claims that the devices are more traceable than regular cubesats, with larger radar cross-sections and extra reflectivity thanks to a Van Atta array. SpaceBEE-1 will pass over Italy while I write this – you can check the location here live.