Swarm Technologies Tells FCC to Suck It

FrgMstr

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What do you do when the FCC tells you that you cannot put four small satellites into Earth's orbit because the ones you have are too small and possibly a danger to other satellites and spacecraft since these tiny ones are too hard to track? You go to India, do it anyways, and don't put your name on those aptly-titled "SpaceBEEs."

That all changed on Wednesday morning, with an email from Serafini to Spangelo setting aside permission for April’s Rocket Lab mission. The FCC believes that Swarm launched and is operating its original small satellites, despite having been forbidden to do so. If confirmed, this would be the first ever unauthorized launch of commercial satellites.

Also on board were four small satellites that probably should not have been there. SpaceBee-1, 2, 3, and 4 were briefly described by the Indian space agency ISRO as “two-way satellite communications and data relay” devices from the United States. No operator was specified, and only ISRO publicly noted that they successfully reached orbit the same day.
 

aaronspink

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If the FCC doesn't have the authority to regulate ISPs in America, what authority do they have to regulate devices launched into space by foreign countries?
Anything using radiating frequency within atmosphere of the US, requires an FCC License.
 

Riccochet

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Too small to track? Like all the small debris that NASA has put in to orbit over the past 50 years?

I'm betting it has nothing to do with the ability to track a small satellite that is actively broadcasting a signal and more to do with the FCC not getting a large enough payment(bribe) to allow them to operate.
 

aaronspink

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Too small to track? Like all the small debris that NASA has put in to orbit over the past 50 years?

I'm betting it has nothing to do with the ability to track a small satellite that is actively broadcasting a signal and more to do with the FCC not getting a large enough payment(bribe) to allow them to operate.
Actually, 10x10x10cm is the common minimum size that is detectable by the vast majority of the earth based sat tracking stations.

The payments required for an experimental license are pretty minimal. This is completely an issue of the satellite being too small.
 

Trepidati0n

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Too small to track? Like all the small debris that NASA has put in to orbit over the past 50 years?

I'm betting it has nothing to do with the ability to track a small satellite that is actively broadcasting a signal and more to do with the FCC not getting a large enough payment(bribe) to allow them to operate.
The costs for getting your "cuebsate" licensed is trivial compared the cost of the cubesat itself and the launch costs. Stop with the conspiracy theories.
 

Gigus Fire

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Anything using radiating frequency within atmosphere of the US, requires an FCC License.
Atmosphere only extends 62 miles. Low earth orbit is at minimum 186 miles.

So again, what basis does the FCC have to regulate things in orbit?
 

viper1152012

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Wait so they think they have power to regulate..... Didn't we just go through this *snaps fingers* (Pai appears).

If you make a branch of government screaming for regulation, then continually bust their balls and strip their authority, who in their right mind would listen to them?

Just add some more bs about free market, startups, mom and pop, over regulation wishy washy words and move on.
 

aaronspink

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Atmosphere only extends 62 miles. Low earth orbit is at minimum 186 miles.

So again, what basis does the FCC have to regulate things in orbit?
Things in orbit 500k+ miles away still radiate signals to the US. Just because something is in orbit doesn't mean it doesn't require an FCC license to use FCC licensed spectrum within the US. Christ on toast, how far away do you think things like SatTV satellites are? Those are licensed.
 

Gigus Fire

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Things in orbit 500k+ miles away still radiate signals to the US. Just because something is in orbit doesn't mean it doesn't require an FCC license to use FCC licensed spectrum within the US. Christ on toast, how far away do you think things like SatTV satellites are? Those are licensed.
500k+ miles away aren't in the atmosphere over the US (as you stated previously). I can understand being licensed as so they're tested not to interfere with communications/spectrums but i would assume that this is untested in the courts or in law. As the article states: "The case might also prove a test of the FCC’s regulatory powers over space matters, which stems from its authority to regulate broadcasting".
How many foreign sats are licensed by the FCC? I'm thinking if they operate over the US maybe they'll do it out of some international compliance but it's not necessary.
 

aaronspink

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500k+ miles away aren't in the atmosphere over the US (as you stated previously). I can understand being licensed as so they're tested not to interfere with communications/spectrums but i would assume that this is untested in the courts or in law. As the article states: "The case might also prove a test of the FCC’s regulatory powers over space matters, which stems from its authority to regulate broadcasting".
How many foreign sats are licensed by the FCC? I'm thinking if they operate over the US maybe they'll do it out of some international compliance but it's not necessary.
Doesn't matter where something is, it either needs to be licensed by the FCC or by some delegated FCC authority (treaty et al) if it is using spectrum within the US. Every foreign sat broadcasting within the US territory that is not government owned (which gets into whole other areas of law we'll just ignore for this discussion) are licensed either directly or indirectly through ITU provisions of the FCC.
 

JMccovery

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I dont get why the FCC gets to regulate space craft..



Well you are right but not for the reason you say. These are in space not atmosphere. The US Govt gets to regulate companies interest in space because by treaty the US Government is legally responsible for what any of its citizens (and companies) do in space. So if this damages another countries property it causes an international incident.

That being said I don't know why the FCC is involved and not the Air Force who I thought was responsible for tracking under their Space Command authority....
I think 47 CFR 25.102 is why the FCC is involved:
§ 25.102 Station authorization required.

(a) No person shall use or operate apparatus for the transmission of energy or communications or signals by space or earth stations except under, and in accordance with, an appropriate authorization granted by the Federal Communications Commission.


(b) Protection from impermissible levels of interference to the reception of signals by earth stations in the Fixed-Satellite Service from terrestrial stations in a co-equally shared band is provided through the authorizations granted under this part.


[ 56 FR 24016, May 28, 1991]
From https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/47/25.102?qt-ecfrmaster=1#qt-ecfrmaster
 

Gigus Fire

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I dont get why the FCC gets to regulate space craft..



Well you are right but not for the reason you say. These are in space not atmosphere. The US Govt gets to regulate companies interest in space because by treaty the US Government is legally responsible for what any of its citizens (and companies) do in space. So if this damages another countries property it causes an international incident.

That being said I don't know why the FCC is involved and not the Air Force who I thought was responsible for tracking under their Space Command authority....
Or nasa or any of the other agencies that are more well equipped than the FCC.
If i read the article, the FCC mandated that the sats broadcast their location and whatnot, which the company complied with. Then the FCC started bothering them with how the cube sats were going to avoid hitting other satellites. I'm assuming these cube sats have little to no propulsion which would mean they have no capability to avoid anything else.
I don't really see how someone could prove this one way or another. So instead of getting tied up in red tape they chose to launch through a foreign agency who didn't care.
 

aaronspink

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Well you are right but not for the reason you say. These are in space not atmosphere. The US Govt gets to regulate companies interest in space because by treaty the US Government is legally responsible for what any of its citizens (and companies) do in space. So if this damages another countries property it causes an international incident.

That being said I don't know why the FCC is involved and not the Air Force who I thought was responsible for tracking under their Space Command authority....
The FCC gets to regulate anything that broadcasts into the US regardless of where it is. Which makes sense because things in space can interfere with terrestrial signals. The space treaty requirements of the US are entirely separate from the FCC requirements (and the FCC requirements are similar in other countries as well). The FCC because it is generally involved in the licensing will bounce any application that doesn't meet the requirements space junk wise. Launch authority in a country generally requires not only the ok of the launching country but also the OK of all the FCC equiv in every country for which the sat will radiate (aka the US wouldn't allow SpaceX to launch a EU sat that didn't have EU CEPT/ECC approval).

Or nasa or any of the other agencies that are more well equipped than the FCC.
If i read the article, the FCC mandated that the sats broadcast their location and whatnot, which the company complied with. Then the FCC started bothering them with how the cube sats were going to avoid hitting other satellites. I'm assuming these cube sats have little to no propulsion which would mean they have no capability to avoid anything else.
I don't really see how someone could prove this one way or another. So instead of getting tied up in red tape they chose to launch through a foreign agency who didn't care.
NASA would be involved with a US launch but not necessarily for a foreign launch. And it isn't the requirement that the cubesats avoid hitting other satellites but that they are big enough for the vast majority of the ground tracking stations to detect and maneuver other satellites to avoid. Sats are both required to broadcast a detection signal AND be large enough to detect. cubesats are cubesats size because that is the generally agreed upon smallest size that can be easily and reliably tracked. Swarm specifically violated multiple guidelines with their satellite and it is highly likely they will be FUBAR along with the intermediate launch provider.

Nor did they launch with a foreign agency that didn't care. It appears that somewhere along the chain a either a screw up occurred or deliberate fraud occurred. This screw up/fraud likely occurred between Swarm and the intermediate launch provider that bought secondary launch space from India. It is highly unlikely that the Indian space agency would violate their various international treaty obligations, at least knowingly.

And its highly unlikely that swarm will ever get another launch as they have now pissed off a LOT of people, companies, and countries because of the additional red tape that will be coming because of this shit.
 

jojo69

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Things in orbit 500k+ miles away still radiate signals to the US. Just because something is in orbit doesn't mean it doesn't require an FCC license to use FCC licensed spectrum within the US. Christ on toast, how far away do you think things like SatTV satellites are? Those are licensed.
Soooooo, I am receiving terrestrial HF (used to be called "short wave") from Asia right this second...better call your world radio police
 

Gigus Fire

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NASA would be involved with a US launch but not necessarily for a foreign launch. And it isn't the requirement that the cubesats avoid hitting other satellites but that they are big enough for the vast majority of the ground tracking stations to detect and maneuver other satellites to avoid. Sats are both required to broadcast a detection signal AND be large enough to detect. cubesats are cubesats size because that is the generally agreed upon smallest size that can be easily and reliably tracked. Swarm specifically violated multiple guidelines with their satellite and it is highly likely they will be FUBAR along with the intermediate launch provider.

Nor did they launch with a foreign agency that didn't care. It appears that somewhere along the chain a either a screw up occurred or deliberate fraud occurred. This screw up/fraud likely occurred between Swarm and the intermediate launch provider that bought secondary launch space from India. It is highly unlikely that the Indian space agency would violate their various international treaty obligations, at least knowingly.

And its highly unlikely that swarm will ever get another launch as they have now pissed off a LOT of people, companies, and countries because of the additional red tape that will be coming because of this shit.
I think you need to read the articles:
"The only problem is, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had dismissed Swarm’s application for its experimental satellites a month earlier, on safety grounds. The FCC is responsible for regulating commercial satellites, including minimizing the chance of accidents in space"

From a different article:
"In various FCC applications, Swarm proposed installing equipment on the satellites to make them broadcast their locations on request and installing radar reflectors to make them more visible. But the FCC was still concerned that wasn’t sufficient, and that the satellites could collide with, and presumably destroy, other spacecraft."

I was talking about tracking the sats and safety should be afforded to better equipped agencies such as nasa or the air force. The FCC isn't a regulatory body for that. If anything it's only broadcast interference and communication to the sats. Anything other than communications is an overreach by the FCC.
From yet a different article:
"The FCC's denial of Swarm's application due to space debris concerns raises further questions. Officially, no federal agency has this regulatory authority, a person familiar with similar disputes told CNBC. The FCC assumed the responsibility to govern launches in this way, but the most recent meeting of the National Space Council may mean that regulatory authority is now in the hands of the Department of Commerce instead. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced he intends to make the department a "one stop shop" for regulatory approval in the commercial space industry."

So i mean, feel free to disagree, but i think you're on shaky ground to suggest that the FCC has the right and authority to regulate satellite safety and to reject authorization due to safety reasons. If it's anything other than communication, not many people would agree with you.
 

Elf_Boy

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If the FCC doesn't have the authority to regulate ISPs in America, what authority do they have to regulate devices launched into space by foreign countries?
I was kind of wondering the same thing.

Do other countries, Russia and China among them need US permission to place anything in orbit?

Just goes to say we need an international politics free agency to oversee orbital resources.
 

Gigus Fire

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I was kind of wondering the same thing.

Do other countries, Russia and China among them need US permission to place anything in orbit?

Just goes to say we need an international politics free agency to oversee orbital resources.
international and politics free don't exist together.
 

lcpiper

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If the FCC doesn't have the authority to regulate ISPs in America, what authority do they have to regulate devices launched into space by foreign countries?

In other news:


Ratheon spokesman Harold Hanse spoke to the Department of Defense explaining that the "space junk" they used in a recent test of their new laser defense system was in fact a SWARM System's communications satellite ..............
 

lcpiper

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...............Do other countries, Russia and China among them need US permission to place anything in orbit?...........................
No, other countries don't, but US Companies do and I'm not sure that secretly launching them from another country is going to let them get around it after they were explicitly denied permission.

Besides, I get the small satellite thing, but couldn't they have just given it it's own tin foil hat so it would show up on tracking RADAR better? A god damned beacon FFS, they call them transponders.

It'll be funny to see how this plays out.
 

BSmith

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Too small to track? Like all the small debris that NASA has put in to orbit over the past 50 years?

I'm betting it has nothing to do with the ability to track a small satellite that is actively broadcasting a signal and more to do with the FCC not getting a large enough payment(bribe) to allow them to operate.
I am thinking it is more along the lines of the Verizon run FCC getting pissed off that a potential competitor is trying to get into the business of data movement.

Too small to track is just a lie. Anything emitting any type of energy is trackable, regardless of size.
 

lcpiper

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I am thinking it is more along the lines of the Verizon run FCC getting pissed off that a potential competitor is trying to get into the business of data movement.

Too small to track is just a lie. Anything emitting any type of energy is trackable, regardless of size.

Depends if you are tracking with an active or passive system. Unless I am mistaken, they use RADAR to track them and don't rely on signals emitted from the satellites because broken satellites might stop emitting signals meaning active tracking for the safe win. So it's probably not a lie, it's probably completely true given the tracking system in use.

Of course if you make me, I'll have to look it up and prove it one way or the other. Or hey, since it's your claim that it's a lie, how about you look it up :whistle:
 

Biznatch

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No, other countries don't, but US Companies do and I'm not sure that secretly launching them from another country is going to let them get around it after they were explicitly denied permission.

Besides, I get the small satellite thing, but couldn't they have just given it it's own tin foil hat so it would show up on tracking RADAR better? A god damned beacon FFS, they call them transponders.

It'll be funny to see how this plays out.

If that's an issue they'll just do a reverse merger and move the company HQ out of the country like the other corps are doing.... They'll even get the benefit of lower taxes.


I still don't get how the FCC has any authority over the kinds of satellites that get launched into orbit. Isn't their only concern the frequencies being used? I thought there was a regulatory body already for approving satellite orbits.
 

BSmith

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Depends if you are tracking with an active or passive system. Unless I am mistaken, they use RADAR to track them and don't rely on signals emitted from the satellites because broken satellites might stop emitting signals meaning active tracking for the safe win. So it's probably not a lie, it's probably completely true given the tracking system in use.

Of course if you make me, I'll have to look it up and prove it one way or the other. Or hey, since it's your claim that it's a lie, how about you look it up :whistle:

NASA and the DoD can track objects as small as 2" in diameter in LEO. In higher orbits, the Space Surveillance Network can track objects down to 4" in diameter.

There is an array of ground and space based sensors used to track debris in space. Not just RADAR.
 

lcpiper

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If that's an issue they'll just do a reverse merger and move the company HQ out of the country like the other corps are doing.... They'll even get the benefit of lower taxes.


I still don't get how the FCC has any authority over the kinds of satellites that get launched into orbit. Isn't their only concern the frequencies being used? I thought there was a regulatory body already for approving satellite orbits.
They get the authority as granted by Congress, and that was sufficiently in place prior to international treaties requiring it.

No new legislation from the US Congress granting powers to the respective regulatory agencies to take steps toward active debris removal is required; both international law and the US national law vest those agencies with such powers.
 

lcpiper

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NASA and the DoD can track objects as small as 2" in diameter in LEO. In higher orbits, the Space Surveillance Network can track objects down to 4" in diameter.

There is an array of ground and space based sensors used to track debris in space. Not just RADAR.

https://apps.fcc.gov/els/GetAtt.html?id=203152&x=.
he applicant proposes to deploy and operate 4 spacecraft that are smaller than 10 cm in one of their three dimensions.
hmmm, 10cm is equal to 3.93701" which is less than 4 inches. The space surveillance network is the entity referenced that would need to track the devices.

You know these things well enough to inform us of them, why are you arguing this? Are you so interested in winning an argument that you don't realize that your losing it on your own comments?
 

Spidey329

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If that's an issue they'll just do a reverse merger and move the company HQ out of the country like the other corps are doing.... They'll even get the benefit of lower taxes.


I still don't get how the FCC has any authority over the kinds of satellites that get launched into orbit. Isn't their only concern the frequencies being used? I thought there was a regulatory body already for approving satellite orbits.
If I'm understanding the issue correctly, Swarm tried to get the CubeSats approved. The FCC has to grant a license for their communications (falls under their jurisidiction), they would not do so until the CubeSats were detectable in space because of their size. Swarm tried to make modifications (reflectors, more sensors, beacons, whatever) but the FCC wouldn't approve it.

In the US, you can't get your payload approved to launch without the proper regulatory licenses, so Swarm launched from another country. Because they never got their FCC license for the communications, they're in violation if the satellites communicate into the US airspace. It's no different than operating a radio on restricted channels, you could be unknowingly interferring with important communication networks (in this case, it's likely using the right spectrum without a license). This isn't an Indian company launching to service India. This is a US company launching from India to service the US. That's why they're in trouble.

The broadcast spectrum is heavily regulated so that signals don't overlap. If you remember the issues from years back where it was found that a bunch of GPS's weren't using the proper frequency (out of range) and interferring with other things. I think we lost spectrum to that issue because it was so widespread it'd take a massive recall.
 
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BSmith

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https://apps.fcc.gov/els/GetAtt.html?id=203152&x=.


hmmm, 10cm is equal to 3.93701" which is less than 4 inches. The space surveillance network is the entity referenced that would need to track the devices.

You know these things well enough to inform us of them, why are you arguing this? Are you so interested in winning an argument that you don't realize that your losing it on your own comments?
In two axises the objects are larger than 4" in diameter. They do not have to be 4" in every axis to be trackable.

Not arguing. You asked, I answered.

You have a better answer, great.
 

lcpiper

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In two axises the objects are larger than 4" in diameter. They do not have to be 4" in every axis to be trackable.

Not arguing. You asked, I answered.

You have a better answer, great.
Issue is, they don't track them continuously, they acquire the location, use predictive tools, and require again updating last position. It's like spot checking. So what happens when the satellite is in a potentially critical path nearing a decision point where someone might have to avoid, and at spot check time the vehicle is giving the sensors the skinny view?

You say that you aren't arguing, but you were sure calling them out, "Too small to track is just a lie." And then wanted to justify it.

So you know how this happens and why a company like this decides they can try and sneak one over?

It's because they didn't know what they needed to know, or were too arrogant to accept what they were told. They got into a business as a start up, smart people wanting to do good things, and they have some winning tech it sounds like, but it sure seems that they should have hired one more guy, the one that knows about pertinent government regulation regarding communications satellites.

They made their sweet tech super bee satellites, learned that they had to get a "Mother May I" from the FCC, and then learned that there was a size restriction. They didn't want to give up on their tiny size capability so instead of rebuilding, they tried to sneak through on some "modifications" that they hoped would be approved. They didn't get approved so they said "fuck this" will just launch them from India. That's either arrogance, or desperation perhaps driven by funding concerns.

Whichever it is, the FCC is looking at pulling the approvals for the company's other launches that have previously been approved. They pissed off the dog and that's too bad.
 
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BSmith

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Good answer. Allow me to put it another way, if you will. I believe there is more going on here than we are being told. "Lie" was a word of convenience due to it being brief and very pointed, yet I still think the basis for using it is still there.

Yes, tracking of any space debris is not real-time. They sample it and then computer modeling projects the orbit/path of the debris. If the object path gets altered, then they investigate as it is usually due to a collision which they should have been modeled in the computer projections. Meaning, they missed something. It is important objects be tracked. No argument.
 

lcpiper

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Good answer. Allow me to put it another way, if you will. I believe there is more going on here than we are being told. "Lie" was a word of convenience due to it being brief and very pointed, yet I still think the basis for using it is still there.

Yes, tracking of any space debris is not real-time. They sample it and then computer modeling projects the orbit/path of the debris. If the object path gets altered, then they investigate as it is usually due to a collision which they should have been modeled in the computer projections. Meaning, they missed something. It is important objects be tracked. No argument.

I wish I could use my Richard Dawson voice "I'll allow it"

OK, my Richard Dawson voice isn't really that good anyway, but continuing....

These government guys, some of them are really risk averse. If anything says not less than 4", or the thing is sent to an engineer and the engineer's reports says that less than 4" is a problem, the guy just may not be willing to take any chances on anything that he has to put his name on, because that's safe. That's how you don't loose your job. Not that I haven't seen enough Government types fuck up and still keep their jobs, but the mentality is there, I'm sure you know it too. Bureaucrats, not Engineers, paper pushers ........ No is safer than Yes.
 

aaronspink

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Soooooo, I am receiving terrestrial HF (used to be called "short wave") from Asia right this second...better call your world radio police
shortwave is covered via ITU under international reciprocity agreements as part of the FCC licensing authority for terrestrial broadcast.
 

aaronspink

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I think you need to read the articles:
I've read the articles. I stand by my comments.

I was talking about tracking the sats and safety should be afforded to better equipped agencies such as nasa or the air force. The FCC isn't a regulatory body for that. If anything it's only broadcast interference and communication to the sats. Anything other than communications is an overreach by the FCC.
Then it would only be the FCC denying on behalf of another agency. Anything smaller than a cubesat is going to be denied outright due to tracking issues.

From yet a different article:
"The FCC's denial of Swarm's application due to space debris concerns raises further questions. Officially, no federal agency has this regulatory authority, a person familiar with similar disputes told CNBC. The FCC assumed the responsibility to govern launches in this way, but the most recent meeting of the National Space Council may mean that regulatory authority is now in the hands of the Department of Commerce instead. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced he intends to make the department a "one stop shop" for regulatory approval in the commercial space industry."
Ross can BS about whatever he wanted, pretty much any satellite launched is still going to require separate FCC approval. DoC simply doesn't have the federal authority.

So i mean, feel free to disagree, but i think you're on shaky ground to suggest that the FCC has the right and authority to regulate satellite safety and to reject authorization due to safety reasons. If it's anything other than communication, not many people would agree with you.
They reject applications on safety grounds pretty regularly. It is one of the main reasons that they reject applications and it has been pretty standard since their founding by congress. And they remain the federal agency with the most authority for non-US launched space craft.
 

aaronspink

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In two axises the objects are larger than 4" in diameter. They do not have to be 4" in every axis to be trackable.

Not arguing. You asked, I answered.

You have a better answer, great.
Um not, math is broken on your end. The Sats are 10cm x 10cm x 2.5cm. AKA <=4" x <=4" x <=1"
 

Gigus Fire

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Then it would only be the FCC denying on behalf of another agency. Anything smaller than a cubesat is going to be denied outright due to tracking issues.
Which agency would that be?
Ross can BS about whatever he wanted, pretty much any satellite launched is still going to require separate FCC approval. DoC simply doesn't have the federal authority.
We can agree that the FCC should be on the regulatory side for communication to and from the sat (in the US). Any other concerns are outside of their authority and expertise. Cubesats are not a new thing and they've already approved of many such cubesats without special attention given to safety.
Here's a list of requirements for cubesats as developed by NASA: https://www.nasa.gov/pdf/627972main_LSP-REQ-317_01A.pdf . Why does the FCC have authority to add their own safety requirements?
 

aaronspink

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We can agree that the FCC should be on the regulatory side for communication to and from the sat (in the US). Any other concerns are outside of their authority and expertise. Cubesats are not a new thing and they've already approved of many such cubesats without special attention given to safety.
Here's a list of requirements for cubesats as developed by NASA: https://www.nasa.gov/pdf/627972main_LSP-REQ-317_01A.pdf . Why does the FCC have authority to add their own safety requirements?
The FCC didn't add their own safety requirements, the satellites didn't meet the cubesat specifications. The satellites at issue were 1/4 of the specified size. The cubesat requirements didn't come out of thin air and were instead based upon the minimal agreed upon tracking size of ~4" sphere. AKA, FCC was enforcing NASA/Internationally recognized safety standards.
 

jojo69

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shortwave is covered via ITU under international reciprocity agreements as part of the FCC licensing authority for terrestrial broadcast.

god, listen to yourself

all this nation state crap is OVER man, get with the times
 
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