Part One of Three Parts
Swarm Technologies is a Silicon Valley startup based in Menlo Park, CA. It was created by two young aerospace engineers. The CEO is Sara Sangelo worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory before moving to Google in 2016. The CFO is Benjamin Longmier who sold Aether Industries, his near-space balloon company, to Apple before becoming a teacher at the University of Michigan. He is also the co-founder of Apollo Fusion which is a company working on a new electric propulsion system for satellites.
In order to work, the Internet of Things (IoT) must be able to connect with, track and facilitate the date exchange of billions of devices linked to the Internet. However, there is only partial Internet access in rural areas and underdeveloped areas and nations. There is no Internet connectivity on the world’s oceans.
Swarm is working on a new fleet of satellites to help connect the Internet of Things (IoT). They would use solar powered gateways to collect information from nearby Io
T devices via Bluetooth, LoRa, Wi-Fi or other future short-range communication standards for Internet connection. The collected information would be beamed to a Swarm satellite using VHF radio. When a Swarm satellite passed over a ground station connected to the Internet, it would beam down the collected IoT to the ground station for relay to the user.
The data that is collected and relayed by the Swarm satellites is encrypted in both upload and download. The satellites would upload and download about once a minute depending on traffic and location. While Spanglo was a grad student at the University of Michigan, she wrote papers that described algorithm and models that were designed to maximize the flow of data over a Swarm style network.
Swarm applied for a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant in 2016. The application said that Swarm integrated sensor and data relay technology was less that one thousandth of the mass and power as well as four hundred times cheaper that existing point to point satellite communication systems such as the Iridium system. Swarm has received over two hundred thousand dollars from the NSF to date.
In April of 2017, Swarm filed its first application with the FCC to test four satellites that they called BEEs which is short for Basic Electronic Elements. Two ground stations were included in the application. Each satellite would be four inches wide, four inches deep and about one inch deep. There is a standard unit for small satellites which is referred to as a 1 Unit CubeSat. This unit is a four-inch cube. So, the Swarm satellites are considered to ¼ U CubeSats.
Being able to launch four satellites in the space of one full CubeSat is intended to keep the price of the launches as low as possible. While it is true that small size will reduce launch costs, small size in itself is a problem once the satellite is in orbit. When objects in space are smaller than one standard CubeSat or a four-inch cube, they become very difficult to track. If an object that size impacted another satellite in orbit, the effect would be catastrophic.
Please read Part Two