Foss Helps with Test of Satellite that could Revolutionize Maritime Communications

Swarm co-founder and CEO Sara Spangelo prepares to launch a balloon that will carry a communications satellite aloft from the Henry Foss. With her are Ben Longmier, left, Swarm co-founder and chief technical officer, and Chris Mack Jr., Foss Puget Sound port captain.

The Puget Sound tug Henry Foss recently served as a platform for a test launch of a tiny satellite for a startup company that hopes to set up a lowcost communication network enabling use of cellphones and wi-fi, even in the most remote areas of the world.

Representatives of Swarm Technologies, based in Palo Alto, Calif., used a balloon to float the satellite — no bigger than a small brick — from the tug.

Using electronic equipment they brought onto the tug, the Swarm representatives successfully communicated with the satellite, and Henry Foss crewmembers were able connect to it with their cellphones.

When the satellites are available for commercial use, they will be deployed into low-earth orbit with rockets to provide global coverage, as balloons are not capable of escaping the earth’s atmosphere.

Puget Sound Port Captain Chris Mack Jr., who along with Foss General Manager John Marcantonio worked with Swarm to arrange the test, said the satellites eventually could enable use of cellphones in places like the Arctic or the Yukon, where there are no cell towers.

Swarm says a network using the tiny satellites could be set up for a fraction of the cost of current satellite communication networks.

“We had an amazing day on the water in Tacoma, partnering with Swarm Technologies to launch their satellite by balloon and to test communications through the satellite,” Marcantonio said. “Foss Maritime Company is proud to support emerging technologies which will improve our abilities to communicate in remote parts of the world and on the seas.”

Swarm co-founder and CEO Sara Spangelo said the company is demonstrating an ability to enable maritime communications from anywhere on the planet.

“As the lowest-cost solution for telemetry in the world, Swarm is improving status, location, weather, safety, performance and asset/container tracking applications across land and on seas,” she said.