Swarm to pay $900,000 for unauthorized satellite launch

It’s part of a settlement reached with the FCC.

The FCC announced today that it had reached a settlement with Swarm over the startup's unauthorized satellite launch in 2017. The trouble started in December of last year when the FCC denied Swarm a licence to launch a set of small satellites called SpaceBEEs, with the commission claiming the satellites were too small to be reliably tracked. But Swarm launched them anyway in January and once the FCC got wind, it initiated an investigation. The settlement requires Swarm to pay a $900,000 penalty and submit to extended FCC oversight over the next few years.

"We will aggressively enforce the FCC's requirements that companies seek FCC authorization prior to deploying and operating communications satellites and earth stations," FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Rosemary Harold said in a statement. "These important obligations protect other operators against radio interference and collisions, making space a safer place to operate."

The FCC said it would continue to consider any new applications from Swarm on a case-by-case basis, and it issued Swarm a temporary license to launch additional satellites back in October. Swarm has agreed to submit pre-launch reports to the FCC for the next three years, file yearly compliance reports to the commission over the next five years and appoint a compliance officer.