Swarm Technologies stung by $900,000 fine

SpaceBEE satellite
As initially designed, Swarm Technologies’ controversial SpaceBEE satellites were each roughly the size of a sandwich. (Swarm Technologies Illustration via FCC)

The Federal Communications Commission says Swarm Technologies must pay a $900,000 fine and be subject to increased scrutiny for having a tiny set of satellites launched without authorization.

The penalties were laid out in a consent decree issued today.

“We will aggressively enforce the FCC’s requirements that companies seek FCC authorization prior to deploying and operating communications satellites and earth stations,” Rosemary Harold, chief of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, said in a news release.  “These important obligations protect other operators against radio interference and collisions, making space a safer place to operate.”

California-based Swarm is aiming to develop a constellation of miniaturized telecommunications satellites that would enable “low-cost, space-based connectivity anywhere in the world.”

The company drew the FCC’s ire after a four-pack of its sandwich-sized satellites, known as SpaceBEEs, was launched aboard an Indian PSLV rocket in January — even though the agency had turned down its application for authorization. FCC officials were concerned that the 4-inch-wide, 1-inch-thick satellites would be too small to be tracked in orbit.

The launch was facilitated by Seattle-based Spaceflight, which said it was not aware at the time that Swarm’s application had been rejected.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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