$900,000 Settlement in Unauthorized Satellite Launch Case

The FCC has settled an investigation into an alleged unauthorized launch and operation of small satellites by Swarm Technologies. The company agreed to a Consent Decree that included a $900,000 penalty, an extended period of FCC oversight, and a requirement of pre-launch notices to the FCC, among other stipulations.

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

In April 2017, Swarm applied for an Experimental license to deploy and operate two Earth stations and four tiny 0.25 U CubeSats called SpaceBEEs. The FCC denied Swarm’s application in December 2017 over concerns about the ability to track the satellites. Swarm nevertheless launched the satellites on January 12, 2018, on a vehicle that also carried an Amateur Radio satellite into space. After reports of the unauthorized SpaceBEEs launch surfaced, the FCC launched an investigation last March.

The FCC determined that Swarm had launched the four SpaceBEEs from India and had unlawfully transmitted signals between Earth stations in Georgia and the satellites for more than a week. In addition, the FCC discovered that Swarm had also performed unauthorized weather balloon-to-ground station tests and other unauthorized equipment tests prior to the launch. All these activities required FCC authorization.

The December resolution requires Swarm to pay a penalty $900,000 to the US Treasury and to submit pre-launch reports to the FCC for the next 3 years. The FCC said Swarm has committed to a strict compliance plan to prevent future FCC rule violations.

The FCC issued an Enforcement Advisory last April to remind satellite operators that they must obtain FCC authorization for space station and Earth station operations. The advisory cautioned satellite operators and launch companies against proceeding with launch arrangements following a license denial or prior to receiving an FCC authorization.

AMSAT / ARISS Fundraising Campaign

AMSAT and ARISS are currently supporting a FundRazr campaign to raise $150,000 for critical radio infrastructure upgrades on ISS.

The upgrades are necessary to enable students to continue to talk to astronauts in space via Amateur Radio.

Already, $16,695 has been raised or about 10% towards the goal.

More Information - https://fundrazr.com/arissnextgen?ref=ab_e7Htwa_ab_47IcJ9

Fox-1Cliff/AO-95 Receiver Suffers Apparent Failure

The receiver on the newly launched Fox-1Cliff/AO-95 CubeSat seems to have suffered a receiver failure that could render the satellite unusable.

AMSAT Engineers are continuing efforts to establish the cause of the problem and determine if a fix is possible.

After a few days of tests, analysis, and discussion, it appears that Fox-1Cliff/AO-95 will not be commissioned as our fourth Fox-1 Amateur Radio satellite.

AMSAT Engineering will continue to evaluate and test Fox-1Cliff/AO-95 for solutions to the anomaly, and your continued help in providing telemetry is appreciated so that we can have data throughout her daily orbits, rather than limited data over our US stations. The data, analysis, and testing could lead to a positive solution, but at the very least will be important to AMSAT’s satellite programs in providing information that would help us and others avoid similar situations with future missions.
— AMSAT Vice President-Engineering Jerry Buxton, N0JY

In a post to AMSAT-BB, Buxton mentioned one suggestion of employing a high-power station to see if AO-95 could hear its signal, but he added that AMSAT Engineering would not be offering a blow-by-blow narrative of its efforts to restore the satellite to operating condition, “unless it is something of merit or actionable.”

Buxton noted that AMSAT’s resources are limited, and all involved are volunteers. “Most — if not all — of our remaining Fox-1 engineers are also involved in the GOLF-TEE project, so I have asked them to give that first priority with their available volunteer time in order to keep the schedule,” Buxton said. “AO-95 is in orbit now, and we can vary the amount of attention on her as resources allow in order to achieve both goals. If the results of our investigation point to a possibility of recovery, be it partial, full, or some workaround method, we would all like to see her working as much as the rest of you, and that is a driver for this investigation.”

Buxton said he anticipates that AMSAT Engineering will continue to seek the cause of the apparent receiver failure, “until we have results or reach a dead end, because of the inability to take the lid off and look inside AO-95.”