Being a space tech startup, not only do you have to deal with all of the extreme costs of operating but also have to clear all kinds of regulatory challenges. It appears that one company has taken it upon itself to not follow through with following all regulations. IEEE Spectrum has discovered that the FCC is accusing startup Swarm Technologies of launching four of its tiny SpaceBEEE (Basic Electronic Elements) communications cubesats without getting the appropriate approvals. This makes it the first satellite maker that’s gone rogue.
Previously, the FCC had denied Swarm’s application to launch its satellites in December 2017, stating that they posed a safety hazard to other spacecraft in Earth’s orbit. This apparently wasn’t a deterrent, as the SpaceBEEs appear to have launched aboard one of India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicles on January 12th. Because of this, it left officials pretty upset. The FCC then revoked Swarm’s approval for a subsequent mission that would have taken place in April, citing an “apparent unauthorized launch and operation” of the four satellites.
To say that Swarm isn’t aware of FCC’s objections would be false because the April cubesats address FCC’s complaints. IEEE and TechCrunch have made numerous attempts to reach Swarm for comment, but have been unsuccessful.