Space startup Swarm emerged from stealth mode in an unusual way two years ago when it turned out that it had launched some of its satellites in contravention of an FCC order not to do so. The regulator had argued that their satellites, which are tiny spacecraft smaller even than most CubeSats, were in fact too small and couldn’t be reliably tracked using existing technology. Now, two years later, Swarm has announced that it has cleared all the requisite regulatory hurdles in order to begin operating commercially in the U.S.
Already last year, Swarm got approval from the FCC to send up the 150 satellites it planned for its initial constellation, as well as up to a total of 600, and it gained approval to use the wireless spectrum that it requires to transmit from its satellites to Earth. On top of that, the company has now added regulatory approval to operate in the U.K., New Zealand, Germany, Sweden, Antarctica and in international waters, and it gained approval for ground stations in the U.S., the U.K., Antarctica, New Zealand and the Azores, with plans for more to come online through the remainder of this year, bringing its total ground station network to 30 by the end of summer, if all goes to plan.
Swarm’s ultimate goal is to provide a worldwide, affordable satellite data network that will be suitable for use in IoT applications, including maritime and ground logistics tracking, and agriculture, as well as for basic communication services for areas that have inadequate ground infrastructure. It’s now at the point where it can begin turning on services using the nine satellites it already has on orbit, as it continues to work toward launching more and expanding its regulatory approvals to cover active operations across more countries.