FCC fines Swarm $900,000 for unauthorized satellite launch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – the Swarm Technologies Inc will pay a $900,000 fine for the startup and operation of four small experimental communications satellites that threatened “satellite collisions” threatened “critical commercial and government satellite operations,” the Federal Communications Commission said on Thursday.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) logo is seen before the FCC net Neutrality hearing in Washington February 26, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

The California-based start-up, founded by former Google and Apple engineers in 2016, and also agreed to enhanced FCC oversight and regulation of pre-launch notifications to the FCC for three years.

Swarm started with the satellites in India last January after the FCC denied application to deploy and operate, citing concerns about the company’s tracking ability.

It said Swarm had unlawfully transmitted signals between earth stations in the state of Georgia, and the satellites for more than a week. The survey also found that the Swarm performed unauthorized balloon-to-ground station tests, and other unauthorized equipment tests prior to the satellites’ launch.

Swarm aims for low-cost space-based internet service and the plans eventually for the use of a constellation of 100 satellites.

Swarm won permission in August from the FCC to reactivate the satellites, and said it is “fully committed to complying with all the requirements and works closely with the FCC,” to note that the satellites are “100 percent.”

Swarm co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Sara Spangelo said in a statement on Thursday that the company accepts the FCC decision “and appreciates the FCC’s continued support for the Swarm’s mission.”

Earlier this month, launched by SpaceX three satellites for the Swarm on a Falcon 9 rocket after winning FCC approval.

FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly said the size of the punishment “is probably not significant enough to deter future behavior, but the negative press is likely to prevent this company and others are trying to do this again.”

O’Rielly said first fine negotiated by the FCC staff had been rejected by a number of commissioners, which led to the reopening of discussions on a scheme.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Dan Grebler

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