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Swarm seeks permission from FCC to launch 150 Spacebees in 2019

By Cal Jeffrey · 9 replies
Jan 4, 2019
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  1. As we reported in December, Swarm had asked for permission to launch four small test satellites in 2017 but was denied. In January 2018, the firm sent them up despite being refused authorization.

    The Federal Communications Commission got wind of the unsanctioned launch and began an investigation last June. Last month the FCC concluded its investigation with a relatively small fine and a temporary permit to operate the satellites.

    According to documents obtained by IEEE Spectrum, only one day after receiving the FCC's consent decree, Swarm asked if it could send up more. The firm is not proposing to put up just a few more — it is asking to launch as many as 150 of the tiny “Spacebees” satellites.

    Its goal is to create a network of orbitals to provide global IoT communications.

    “Swarm will offer two-way communications services to allow end users to send and receive data anywhere in the world,” said Swarm in the FCC application. “The Swarm constellation will be deployed rapidly, and begin to offer commercial services even prior to full deployment of the constellation.”

    The Spacebees, which are no bigger than a human hand (11x11x2.8cm) and only weigh between 0.4 and 0.7kg, can be built and put into orbit quickly and for less cost than a typical satellite. Their small size also allows them to be launched in larger numbers simultaneously.

    Swarm’s application says that it wants to start sending the orbiters up as soon as March 1. It plans to have an operational network of 150 satellites by the end of the year with more than 500 being launched over the 15-year lifetime of the constellation. Not all of these will be up at once.

    Spacebees will orbit at an altitude of 450-550km. At this height, a small amount of atmosphere will gradually decay their orbit until they drop out and burn up. Each satellite will have to be replaced around four times over 15 years.

    It is unclear whether the FCC will give it the go ahead. When it denied permission for the four launched last year, the commission cited concerns of not being able to track the 1/4U craft from the ground.

    “In the absence of tracking at the same level as available for [1U] objects… the ability of operational spacecraft to reliably assess the need for and plan effective collision avoidance maneuvers will be reduced or eliminated,” said the FCC in its original denial.

    The permit to fly the current four expires at the end of February. The FCC will likely decide by then on whether it will allow the project to continue.

    Permalink to story.

     
  2. Capaill

    Capaill TS Evangelist Posts: 706   +349

    Oh yay. More space junk around our planet. I guess we can forget about ever launching rockets into space again with all the tiny missiles flying around up there.
     
    psycros likes this.
  3. gusticles41

    gusticles41 TS Guru Posts: 317   +346

    They're the size of a hand...If you can manage to launch a rocket and hit one of these then you should have been playing the lottery.
     
  4. senketsu

    senketsu TS Guru Posts: 894   +620

    maybe not a rocket, but look up the Kessler Syndrome, aka how space junk may end our modern way of life (even if we don't put anymore satellites up there anymore). It's all good until suddenly it's not and we are all FUBAR
     
    psycros likes this.
  5. toooooot

    toooooot TS Evangelist Posts: 488   +234

    I like their character free spirit: "we re not allowed to send them? Screw you FCC! There our bees go!"
     
  6. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 11,012   +4,739

    Alien space craft was prevented from entering Earth's atmosphere by swarm of spacebees. The pun was probably intended by Swarm.
     
  7. psycros

    psycros TS Evangelist Posts: 2,376   +2,032

    I'm concerned that these things apparently can't be tracked via ground radar. If that's the case then a tiny missile fired from another satellite or a space plane wouldn't be detected either. I'm glad the paranoid sci-fi future of my childhood is alive and well.
     
  8. Right side bob

    Right side bob TS Booster Posts: 229   +43

    Don't worry there's more https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rx5XyspHldk
    Oh yeah privacy concerns that's important. Wait "Its goal is to create a network of orbitals to provide global IoT communications" All the data these IoT devices collect could be sent to a central data center or third parties like google. If they aren't doing that then a few lines of code could redirect all that data to any hacker, script kiddie or me. I mean I learned some python I could do this.
     
  9. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,636   +1,105

    How is that any different from how current satellites or ISPs or communications in general work?
     
  10. Right side bob

    Right side bob TS Booster Posts: 229   +43

    Its not its just new infrastructure that could be used for collecting data.
     

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