Move fast and break things, the mantra of Silicon Valley startups, has created a scapegoat for tech founders who do just that: break things. And it’s not just with Facebook breaking democracy — the contagion of dismissing regulation has now spread to the space sector with Swarm Technologies going as far as breaking the law.
One of Swarm Technologies’ pico satellites. The company wants to operate a constellation of 100 tiny satellites for Internet of Things services. Credit: Swarm Technologies
Swarm Technologies, the Silicon Valley creator of “SpaceBee” pico satellites, has found itself in hot water with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the regulatory body of international communications by radio, wire and satellites. Swarm disregarded a decision by the FCC which refused a license to launch its satellites because pico satellites, being much smaller than nanosatellites, could not be safely detected and hence tracked in space. Swarm launched the satellites anyway aboard an Indian polar satellite launch vehicle.
The FCC, after an investigation beginning in May 2018, has fined Swarm $900,000, a meagre outcome that has shocked many in the satellite industry. The punishment for Swarm by no means fits the magnitude of the crime committed; the financial and ...