from the getting-crowded-up-there dept.
India on Friday deployed a remote sensing Cartosat and 30 other satellites, including 28 from six nations into the earth's orbit after a copybook launch from its spaceport here. The 44.4-metre tall Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C40) roared into a clear sky after a perfect lift-off at 9.29 a.m. following a 28-hour countdown. The 320-tonne rocket would eject the satellites one-by-one and deploy them into the earth's lower orbit 17 minutes and 18 seconds after the lift-off.
Of the 31 satellites, three are Indian and the rest are from Canada, Finland, France, South Korea, UK and the US.
[YouTube Video]: The Launch of PSLV-C40 / Cartosat-2 Series Satellite
France is set to launch a champagne box-sized mini satellite into Earth orbit on Friday to study a mysterious, juvenile planet system in our Milky Way galaxy, mission controllers said.
The PicSat orbiter's target is the massive star Beta Pictoris, some 60 light years from Earth in the southern constellation of Pictor (The Painter's Easel), and its planet Beta Pictoris b—a gassy giant.
Built at the Paris Observatory's LESIA laboratory, with European backing, PicSat is due to be launched in the early-morning hours of Friday on an Indian PSLV rocket.
It will orbit our planet at an altitude of some 500 kilometres (310 miles), hoping to learn more about Beta Pictoris b by observing the next time it transits its host star, appearing as a dot on the bright surface as seen from Earth's perspective.
Beta Pictoris b, the only currently known exoplanet in the system, has a mass of about 7 Jupiter masses and orbits at a distance of around 9.2 AU.
The PicSat mission will continuously monitor for a transit, which could last for up to a few hours, in order to alert more powerful observatories:
The nominal PicSat mission will last for one year. When the start of a planetary or other transit is observed, the 3.6-meter telescope from the European Southern Observatory in La Sille, Chile, will also be immediately put into action to observe Beta Pictoris using the powerful HARPS instrument. These data combined will allow an even better understanding of the phenomenon.
A startup called Swarm Technologies has had its authorization for an upcoming satellite launch revoked by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) after it flew four satellites on an Indian rocket without receiving authorization from the FCC:
On 12 January, a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket blasted off from India's eastern coast. While its primary cargo was a large Indian mapping satellite, dozens of secondary CubeSats from other countries travelled along with it. Seattle-based Planetary Resources supplied a spacecraft that will test prospecting tools for future asteroid miners, Canadian company Telesat launched a broadband communications satellite, and a British Earth-observation mission called Carbonite will capture high-definition video of the planet's surface.
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.
[...] 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. It feared that the four SpaceBees now orbiting the Earth would pose an unacceptable collision risk for other spacecraft. If confirmed, this would be the first ever unauthorized launch of commercial satellites.
On Wednesday, the FCC sent Swarm a letter revoking its authorization for a follow-up mission with four more satellites, due to launch next month. A pending application for a large market trial of Swarm's system with two Fortune 100 companies could also be in jeopardy.
The concept uses satellites to send Internet of Things (IoT) device data to the Internet. Solar-powered gateways would collect data from nearby IoT devices, and beam it to a SpaceBEE satellite using VHF radio. The data would then be beamed down to Internet-connected ground stations.
The company was denied approval to launch 10 cm × 10 cm × 2.8 cm sized SpaceBEEs due to the craft being too small to reliably track using the United States Space Surveillance Network.
Back in March came the surprising news that a satellite communications company still more or less in stealth mode had launched several tiny craft into orbit — against the explicit instructions of the FCC. The company, Swarm Technologies, now faces a $900,000 penalty from the agency, as well as extra oversight of its continuing operations.
[...] Unfortunately, the units are so small — about a quarter the size of a standard cubesat, which is already quite tiny — that the FCC felt they would be too difficult to track, and did not approve the launch.
Swarm, perhaps thinking it better to ask forgiveness than file the paperwork for permission, launched anyway in January aboard India's PSLV-C40, which carried more than a dozen other passengers to space as well. (I asked Swarm and the launch provider, Spaceflight, at the time for comment but never heard back.) The FCC obviously didn't like this, and began an investigation shortly afterwards.
Slap on the wrist?