Monday, June 18, 2018

Swarm Technologies Applies for Another FCC Satellite Launch Licence

          By Henry Stewart

Mountain View CA based Swarm Technologies, the stealthy start-up co-founded by four silicon valley expatriates including Canadian born CEO Sara Spangelo, which launched four "unauthorized" and "dangerous" pico-sats back in January 2018 after failing to receive US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) permission for the launch, has made a second application to the FCC for permission to launch three more.

As outlined in the March 12th, 2018 post, "Silicon Valley Company Co-owned and Run by a Canadian has Launched Four "Unauthorized" & "Dangerous" Pico-sats" the Swarm pico-sats are "built to a 0.25U cubesat form factor design) are considered extremely small and very difficult to track." Graphic Swarm Technologies via IEEE Spectrum.

As outlined in the June 13th, 2018 IEEE Spectrum post, "Swarm Seeks Fresh FCC Satellite Launch Clearance While Still in Penalty Box," the FCC has not yet "decided on a punishment for its first offence."

As outlined in the article:
Its new application says that Swarm “urgently needs to demonstrate the viability of its proposed satellite-based communications network to technical and business partners, potential investors, and potential customers.” It is proposing to launch three Cubesats on a SpaceX rocket due to take off from Vandenberg Air Force in California later this year. 
The application comes as the FCC continues to mull whether or how to punish Swarm for the unauthorized launch of four tiny SpaceBee satellites on an Indian rocket in January. The FCC denied Swarm’s original application for the SpaceBees last year, citing concerns about their trackability from the surface and thus the possibility of collisions on orbit.
According to the article:
...while one of the satellites appears to be identical to the ones covered in the set-aside application, two others are significantly heavier. This could indicate that Swarm has taken advantage of the delay to modify them. Swarm did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The new satellites, called SpaceBee-9, -10, and -11, will test communications with ground stations in Silicon Valley and the state of Georgia.
The company has less than two months to come to an agreement with the FCC. The scheduled SpaceX rocket could go up as early as September 1st, 2018 and SpaceX requires the satellites to be delivered to the launch facility, ready to go with the appropriately completed paperwork, one month prior to launch. 

Swarm seems to have required suprisingly little funding to have caused so much trouble.

The company seems to have received only one phase one US small business innovation research (SBIR) grant/ small business technology transfer (SBTT) grant for $220K US ($290K CDN) as per and a second, $741K US ($978K CDN) phase two SBIR grant from the National Science Foundation (Award Abstract #1758752 SBIR Phase II: An Innovative and Open Satellite-Based Internet of Things (IoT) Network).

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer. 

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