Bees in space - Swarm technologies' unauthorised deployment of SmallSats and Art. VI of the outer space treaty

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingPaper in conference proceeding


In March 2018, it became publically known that Indian Space Research Organisation ISRO's launch on 12 January 2018 deployed four space objects into orbit that were not authorised by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of the United States of America (US). Prior to the launch with ISRO's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, US-based tech start-up Swarm Technologies had received a dismissal by the FCC of their application for a license to launch their four SpaceBEE satellites. This may be the first publically known occasion of a potentially unauthorised deployment of space objects since the inception of international space law. This paper centres around an assessment of the launch of the SpaceBEE satellites under national and international space law. Regarding the latter, the regime of international responsibility of States is considered under both Article VI of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty and general public international law. The paper concludes that while it is too early to foresee the ultimate consequences of Swarm Technologies' conduct, a discussion of the relevant national and international legal frameworks proves instructive. The theoretical attention that the interpretation of Art. VI OST has been getting over the past decades is met with a sense of practical necessity triggered by the deployment of the SpaceBEEs.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Law and Society


  • Authorisation, Non-governmental entities, Outer Space Treaty, Public international law, Smallsats, State responsibility
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the International Astronautical Congress, IAC
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Publication categoryResearch
Event69th International Astronautical Congress: #InvolvingEveryone, IAC 2018 - Bremen, Germany
Duration: 2018 Oct 12018 Oct 5

Publication series

NameProceedings of the International Astronautical Congress, IAC
ISSN (Print)0074-1795


Conference69th International Astronautical Congress: #InvolvingEveryone, IAC 2018