In the wake of an unlicensed satellite launch by a Silicon Valley startup, the FCC has issued an advisory spelling out licensing requirements that company must comply with before launch.
“Compliance with requirements for licensing of satellite communications is not optional,” the commission said. “Failure to comply with FCC requirements can and will result in enforcement action.”
The FCC says that Swarm Technologies launched four SpaceBee prototype satellites aboard an Indian PSLV rocket in January despite the agency having previously rejected the company’s application for a license.
A Silicon Valley startup named Swarm Technologies has been accused of launching four tiny satellites into space without FCC approval. The four SpaceBEE satellites, which are about one quarter the size of a 1U CubeSat, were launched aboard an Indian PSLV booster in January. The satellites are testing Internet of Things technologies.
The only problem is, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had dismissed Swarm’s application for its experimental satellites a month earlier, on safety grounds. The FCC is responsible for regulating commercial satellites, including minimizing the chance of accidents in space. It feared that the four SpaceBees now orbiting the Earth would pose an unacceptable collision risk for other spacecraft.
If confirmed, this would be the first ever unauthorized launch of commercial satellites.
In fact, the FCC told the startup that the agency would assess “the impact of the applicant’s apparent unauthorized launch and operation of four satellites… on its qualifications to be a Commission licensee.” If Swarm cannot convince the FCC otherwise, the startup could lose permission to build its revolutionary network before the wider world even knows the company exists.