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Launch of “SpaceBEEs” Unauthorized, FCC Tells California Technology Developer


On the same launch as an Amateur Radio satellite in January from India, some tiny 0.25 U CubeSats called SpaceBEEs — not to be confused with the fantasy insects in the “Futurama” TV cartoon — also went into space when they apparently should not have.

Last December, in a letter to their developer, Swarm Technologies Inc. of Los Altos, California, Anthony Serafini, the Chief of the FCC’s Experimental Licensing Branch, advised that the FCC was unable to grant the company’s application for an Experimental authorization in association with deployment and operation of “four spacecraft smaller than 10 cm in one of their three dimensions.” In dismissing the application without prejudice, the FCC said the spacecraft were below the size threshold “at which detection by the Space Surveillance Network (SSN) can be considered routine.” The FCC said the proposed addition of KU-band radar reflectors would overcome the issue only with respect to the small portion of the SSN that utilizes the KU band.

“In the absence of tracking at the same level as available for objects of 10 cm × 10 cm × 10 cm, and in the event of a conjunction with an operational spacecraft, the ability of operational spacecraft to reliably assess the need for and plan effective collision avoidance maneuvers will be reduced or eliminated,” the FCC said.

Last week, the FCC e-mailed Swarm Technologies that its application for an additional experimental authorization had been set aside and was “in a pending status for further review.”

“The International Bureau requested that the grant be set aside in order to permit assessment of the impact of the applicant’s apparent unauthorized launch and operation of four satellites, and related statements and representations, on its qualifications to be a Commission licensee,” the FCC informed Swarm Technologies.

Swarm told the FCC in an appendix to its experimental radio authorization application that it was seeking to demonstrate “two-way communications satellites to serve as a cost-effective low-data rate Internet of Things (IoT) network connectivity solution for remote and mobile sensors.” 



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