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FCC is accusing startup for launching satellites without permission

12 March 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. Although this is normal, what's not normal is that the rocket had four CubeSats from a Silicon Valley-based company which denied launch by FCC previous year. While its primary cargo was a large Indian mapping satellite, dozens of secondary CubeSats from other countries travelled along with it. Seattle-based Planetary Resources supplied a spacecraft that will test prospecting tools for future asteroid miners, Canadian company Telesat launched a broadband communications satellite, and a British Earth-observation mission called Carbonite will capture high-definition video of the planet's surface.

Anthony Serafini, chief of the Experimental Licensing Branch of FCC, raised concern to Swarm that it would be tough to keep track of the miniaturized satellites in orbit due to their tiny size.

In what could be the first ever recorded unauthorized launch of a commercial satellite, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is investigating a startup company that may have launched several small satellites without receiving proper authorization.

Swarm believes its network could enable satellite communications for orders of magnitude less cost than existing options.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reveals a USA start-up company launched four mini satellites into orbit after the agency specifically prohibited the take-off.

Now Swarm is once again asking the FCC for permission to launch a new batch of satellites that matches FCC's standards.

FCC denied the permission to launch SpaceBees out of the feat that the four satellites would increase the chances of the risk of collision with other satellites. SpaceFlight was unaware of Swarm's situation with the FCC, as it's the responsibility of its customers to get appropriate FCC approvals before launches.

Swarm, founded by former NASA and Google researcher Sara Spangelo in 2016, is still operating in "stealth mode"- operating in secret and without much of a public face until the company is officially ready to reveal its product. Benjamin Longmier who is the CFO of Swarm Technology sold his near-space balloon company Aether Industries to Apple in 2015. The SpaceBees are communications satellites meant to provide connectivity for internet-enabled devices and sensors.

In the December denial letter, the FCC cited the diminutive size of the SpaceBees as troublesome.

Four of those small satellites appear to be the remodeled SpaceBees from Swarm Technologies, described as "2-way satellite communications and data relay" and perhaps launched without knowledge that they hadn't been approved yet.

This may be the first time a private USA company launched satellites into orbit without a proper license, and it's unclear what sort of punitive measures regulatory bodies will take against Swarm Technologies.

FCC is accusing startup for launching satellites without permission