An Indian-built PSLV-C40 rocket launched four small SpaceBee satellites for American stealth startup Swarm Technologies. Although initially ignored by most, it has since been revealed by IEEE Spectrum that the satellites have become infamous as the first ever to be launched without authorisation.
The PSLV-C40 launch vehicle lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota in India at 09:29 local time (03:59 GMT). Along with the four Swarm Technologies satellites deployed, the launch saw the deployment of an additional 27 payloads including the 710-kilogram Cartosat-2, a satellite developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation.
Swarm Technologies is a Silicon Valley startup founded by former Google and Apple engineers. The company hopes to launch a satellite constellation that would provide high-speed internet much like the proposed SpaceX Starlink network.
Swarm had submitted an application to the FCC to approve the launch of the four small satellites. The FCC is the governmental body charged with regulating commercial satellite deployment. However, the FCC rejected their application citing the difficulty the Space Surveillance Network (SSN) would have tracking a satellite under the 10cm x 10cm x 10cm threshold. Despite the FCC rejection, it appears Swarm chose to go ahead with the launch of their four Space Bee satellites.
Following the launch of the unauthorized satellites, the FCC has revoked Swarm Technologies application for a follow-up mission. This could put the future of the company in jeopardy with the FCC going so far as to warm that the launch may negatively affect the company’s “qualifications to be a Commission licensee.”
Image Credit: ISRO