Do you have any idea what will happen if you launch a satellite into space without the knowledge of the government, but with government funding? Let’s find out!
The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) is in charge of regulating satellite activities by the U.S companies and citizens. There has been an inquiry on the launch of four satellites by a company called Swarm Technologies, and the case has been handed over to enforcement bureau.
The FCC does not put their hand in enforcement actions but can impose penalties and ban individuals or companies from working on satellites. Sara Spangelo, Swarm’s CEO and the co-founder Benjamin Longmier are waiting for the government to make a judgment, even as the satellites they built are orbiting the Earth. Their project received a minimum of a million grants, and other fundings for the launch.
There was a contract between the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley of NASA and Swarm, a tie that was described in a regulatory filing of 2018. In the contract, it was mentioned that NASA and Swarm both in collaboration were developing a satellite interlinking technology and they wanted to test it. But now the Ames spokesperson says that they no longer have a contract. He said that it was a contract that was delivered by an unidentified contractor and now has been terminated.
Some of the agencies have supported Swarm. Another two grants were made to Swarm by the National Science Foundation. According to the language of grant, they were for protecting the smallest 2-way communication satellites of the World and associated hardware on the ground. The focus was also on the Internet of Things applications.
The SpaWar and the U.S navy both had a development and research agreement with Swarm to test the radar retroreflectors for enhanced tracking of small satellites. A spokesperson of the Navy confirmed that this agreement was genuine and also found someone who could answer further queries about it. But he later stopped responding to phone calls and emails.
Swarm is a small startup which is not even two years old. It is not very clear from where this organization gets its funding from. But it has been clear that government funding played a role in launching these unauthorized satellites. The NSF individually had given $200,000 grant in the previous year, alongside the US Navy and NASA contracts.
There is a wide gap between the people who pay for these satellites and the officials who regulate them which causes all the problem. Lawmakers should be concentrated on bridging this gap so as to prevent such problems in the future.