Elon Musk has criticized fellow centibillionaire and space cowboy Jeff Bezos for filing lawsuits against the former’s space company SpaceX.
Earlier this month, Bezos’ space company Blue Origin sued NASA after it lost a crucial government contract to send astronauts on the moon to SpaceX. As a result, SpaceX’s own work on the project has been delayed. And now, this week, Amazon has… urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reject newly submitted plans from SpaceX to launch another cluster of satellites to power its satellite Internet service Starlink.
In response to a story about the latest complaint, Musk tweeted: “Turns out Besos [sic] retired to pursue a full-time job and file lawsuits against SpaceX…”
Amazon’s recent complaint does not appear to be a formal lawsuit, but rather a letter of protest. And technically it’s not that Amazon doesn’t want SpaceX to launch more Starlink satellites at all, but rather that it believes the company needs to be clearer in its plans to do so.
Starlink is currently powered by approximately 1,740 satellites in low Earth orbit, serving an estimated 90,000 customers. SpaceX is gearing up to launch a tranche of 30,000 second-generation satellites to improve service, so it must inform the FCC exactly where they will be placed around Earth. Amazon’s complaint is that SpaceX is asking the FCC to approve two completely different orbital configurations that can be chosen later.
“SpaceX’s new approach to requesting two mutually exclusive configurations violates both Commission rules and public policy, and we urge the Commission to reject this amendment,” writes Mariah Dodson Shuman, business adviser to Kuiper Systems, a subsidiary of Amazon.
Shuman says having to grapple with two possible configurations “doubles the technical effort” faced by other operators — including Amazon’s Kuiper system, which hasn’t launched any satellites of its own yet. These parties will have to review “interference and orbital debris problems” raised by two separate satellite configurations.
Shuman’s preference is that SpaceX should pick a plan and stick to it, and that adopting two configurations sets a bad precedent by allowing future satellite operators to hedge their bets while creating more work for the entire industry. . She concludes, “Therefore, the Commission should uphold its rules, reject SpaceX’s amendment and invite SpaceX to re-table the amendment after being satisfied with a single configuration for its Gen2 system.”