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FCC accuses stealth space startup of unauthorized satellite deployment

The FCC refused a space start authorization to launch a collection of telecommunications satellites after discovering that it had already launched a few – after it had been told do not do it. Swarm Technologies, still in stealth mode, seems to have taken the lead with the deployment of four satellites deemed too small to be tracked and therefore dangerous to put into orbit.

IEEE Spectrum assembled the exhibits from public documents from the FCC and some launching manifestos. Swarm's initial plan was to orbit several very small satellites – smaller than those of 1U Cubesats – to test his experimental communication system.

But the small size meant that the satellites could not be tracked with existing space surveillance technology, and the FCC, which must approve communications satellite launches, considered this risk to be too great and refused to allow the use of satellites. authorize the deployment proposed by Swarm.

What should have happened next is: Swarm cleans the deployment, applies again with larger satellites or other ways to improve the visibility of the little ones, the FCC grants the permission and then the launch occurs. ]

While the company has submitted a new application with bigger satellites, it seems to have pursued the initial plan for launching tiny satellites despite the FCC's warning not to do so . This is clear from the manifesto of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PDF) of India that took off in January, which included four "SpaceBEE" corresponding to the description of the unauthorized Swarm gear.

It is possible that Swarm satellites have already been locked down and loaded, and perhaps more importantly, paid by the time the FCC issued its decision in December. The long delays in approval and launch mean that a lot of preparation needs to be done while a deployment is still waiting for the official go-ahead. If you wait until the paperwork is erased before you even ask for a launch location, you may run out of funding until you have a chance to go into orbit.

But in this case, especially since the FCC cited a security problem – the inability to reliably track the location of satellites – the good thing to do would be to remove from the launch. It's easy for me to say, of course, that it's not my money or my business, but getting around the rules as it can prove to be more expensive in the end than it is. comply with it.

I asked Swarm, the FCC and Spaceflight (who seems to have arranged the Swarm space on the launch, maybe thinking that permission was going to be given) and I will update this story if I hear it.

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