“Unauthorized deployment and operation of satellites risks satellite collisions and radio frequency interference, threatening critical commercial and government satellite operations,” the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said in a statement. “To settle this matter, Swarm Technologies admits that it engaged in these unlawful acts, will implement a five-year compliance plan, and will pay a $900,000 civil penalty.”
Founded by aerospace engineers Sara Spangelo and Benjamin Longmier in 2017, and backed by funding from NASA, the US Navy, and the National Science Foundation, Swarm has been developing ultra-small satellites designed to form a space communications network.
“We accept the decision of the FCC as reflected in its consent decree and appreciate the FCC’s ongoing support for Swarm’s mission,” Spangelo said in a statement. “With the recent FCC authorized launch of three new Swarm satellites into low Earth orbit on the latest SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, we move one step closer to enabling low-cost, space-based connectivity anywhere in the world.”
In January 2018, the company launched four satellites into orbit in defiance of the FCC’s denial of their application to operate the satellites.
In March 2018, the FCC discovered that Swarm had undertaken an illegal launch two months earlier, and began an investigation, which was handed over to its enforcement bureau in May. The consent degree released by the FCC reveals that after the January launch, Swarm communicated with its satellites for a week without official permission. According to the document, the company also conducted tests of its transmitters between a weather balloon and moving cars in Palo Alto, California, which is not legal without FCC permission.