FCC hits Swarm with $900k fine over unauthorized satellite launch

Earlier this year, a startup called Swarm Technologies was accused of launching four small satellites without permission. The revelation came from FCC documents, which also revealed that Swarm had lost its authorization for a mission that had been scheduled in April 2018. Now, several months later, the startup has been hit with a big fine.

Swarm Technologies is a startup that dreams of using many small satellites to provide a global Internet service. The issue started when Swarm launched four small satellites called SpaceBEEs on an Indian PSLV rocket. Soon after, the FCC documents revealed that Swarm had been denied a license for launching the satellite.

According to officials who had made the decision, the SpaceBEE satellites may have been too small to safely deploy — such a small size could interfere with tracking the devices, essentially turning them into potential rogue satellites that could collide with other orbiting satellites.

An FCC investigation uncovered the launch, as well as illegal use of ground communication stations for communicating with the SpaceBEEs. According to the latest FCC announcement, it will settle the matter with Swarm for $900,000, which will be paid to the US Treasury.

As well, Swarm Technologies now must provide the FCC with pre-launch reports over the next three years and must stick with a strict compliance plan. Any future applications from Swarm will be evaluated by the FCC and the International Bureau on a case-by-case basis