How a satellite snafu led to a new launch policy

PSLV rocket
India’s PSLV-C40 rocket stands on its launch pad in advance of January’s liftoff. (ISRO Photo)

When India’s PSLV rocket launched a host of satellites into orbit in January, one big piece was missing: the Federal Communications Commission’s authorization for Swarm Technologies’ super-miniaturized satellites.

The FCC had nixed Swarm’s application on the grounds that the wallet-sized communications satellites, known as SpaceBEEs, were too small to be tracked properly. But Seattle-based Spaceflight, which had arranged for the launch, didn’t know that.

January’s unauthorized launch of the SpaceBEEs resulted in a regulatory slap for Swarm, and no small embarrassment for Spaceflight.

Curt Blake, the launch logistics company’s president, vows it won’t happen again.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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