Dec 20, 2018

Firm gets $900,000 FCC fine for rogue satellite launches

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully launches on Dec. 5 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Photo: Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

The FCC has settled an unusual case in which Swarm Technologies Inc. was charged with the unauthorized launch of and operation of small satellites. The settlement includes a penalty of $900,000 and an extended period of FCC oversight.

Why it matters: As commercial space companies proliferate, and firms such as the Elon Musk-founded SpaceX seek permission to launch thousands of satellites to build a new broadband internet service, the FCC is asserting its role in overseeing communications satellites. This is occurring at the same time as other federal agencies, such as the FAA and NASA, are determining their own regulatory roles in the new space race.

"We will aggressively enforce the FCC’s requirements that companies seek FCC authorization prior to deploying and operating communications satellites and Earth stations,” said Rosemary Harold, chief of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, in a statement.

Background: This case involves a company that applied for an experimental radio service license to deploy and operate two Earth stations and four small satellites in April 2017. The FCC denied Swarm’s application in December of that year because it had reservations about the firm's satellite tracking capabilities.

Yet Swarm went ahead and launched the satellites anyway on Jan. 12, 2018, using a launch company in India. The FCC press release states the company then "unlawfully transmitted signals between Earth stations in Georgia and the satellites for over a week."

The bottom line: So there'd be no confusion, the FCC issued an enforcement advisory in April 2018 to remind satellite operators "that they must obtain FCC authorization for space station and Earth station operations."

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Stocks jump 7% despite bleak coronavirus projections

People passing by the New York Stock Exchange amid the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: John Nacion/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The S&P 500 closed up 7% on Monday, while the Dow rose more than 1,500 points.

Why it matters: The huge market surge comes amid rare optimistic signs that the spread of the coronavirus may be slowing in parts of the country, including New York. But government officials say this will be a difficult week, while economists — including former Fed chair Janet Yellen today — warn that the pandemic could have a catastrophic impact on the global economy.

Boris Johnson moved to intensive care as coronavirus symptoms worsen

Photo: Peter Summers/Getty Images

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been taken to the intensive care unit of St. Thomas Hospital in London due to increasingly severe coronavirus symptoms.

The backdrop: Johnson was admitted to the hospital on Sunday for what Downing Street called "routine tests" because his condition had not improved 10 days after he tested positive for the virus. His condition has since "worsened," according to a statement, and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will step into his place "where necessary."

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