Can you build an effective communication satellite the size of a grilled cheese sandwich? For the Internet of Things (IoT) marketplace, Swarm Technologies is out to prove it can.
My guest this week is Sara Spangelo, co-founder and CEO of Swarm Technologies. The company is noteworthy for its innovation in developing a communication satellite 1/4 the size of a traditional CubeSat, which is 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm. To put it another way, and as my guest put it, the size of a grilled cheese sandwich.
The company wants to build and launch 150 of these pico satellites, called SpaceBees, to create a global network to allow Internet of Things devices such as sensors in a farmers field, to send small amounts of data back to servers for processing. Currently the company has seven experimental satellites in orbit.
Swarm is less than two years old and it’s gotten more attention than perhaps they would have wanted. Last year could have been a company killing year for the startup as they ran afoul of the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) when they not only launched four of their satellites without an FCC license, they also performed unauthorized weather balloon-to-ground station tests, and unauthorized tests of satellite and ground station equipment.
They settled with the FCC, paying a whopping $900,000 fine, and they recently closed their Series A round of financing for US$25M. The company wants to put past mistakes behind them and build the company out with its innovative technologies.
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The “space is big” argument against orbital debris risk is now a decade (almost to the day) out of date… this kind of attitude strikes me as irresponsible in the same way as launching satellites without FCC approval. That’s okay though, a hundred years from now people will be telling stories and making movies about the adventures of the early days of the space age when the frontier was still like the wild west, and space cowboys (and cowgirls) still got away with these types of things!