Science & Technology

Amazon fires back at SpaceX in regulatory war of words over satellite constellations

Amazon laid out out a laundry checklist of SpaceX’s regulatory tussles as we speak in a letter sent to the Federal Communications Commission, marking the most recent chapter in a bare-knuckles battle over broadband satellite constellations.

The letter — written by C. Andrew Keisner, lead counsel for Amazon’s multibillion-dollar Project Kuiper satellite project — argues that SpaceX has run roughshod over regulatory necessities, and that SpaceX lambastes anybody who seeks to name the corporate to account.

“Whether or not it’s launching satellites with unlicensed antennas, launching rockets with out approval, constructing an unapproved launch tower, or reopening a manufacturing unit in violation of a shelter-in-place order, the conduct of SpaceX and different Musk-led firms makes their view plain: guidelines are for different folks, and people who insist upon and even merely request compliance are deserving of derision and advert hominem assaults,” Keisner wrote.

This comes in response to SpaceX’s complaint last week that Amazon is “greater than prepared to make use of regulatory and authorized processes to create obstacles designed to delay” its rivals. We’ve reached out to SpaceX for a response to as we speak’s letter, and can replace this report with something we hear back. Replace for Sept. 10: In a letter to the FCC, SpaceX characterised Amazon’s letter as “one other week, one other objection.” Particulars beneath.

The central subject in the war of words is SpaceX’s request to amend its application for the next generation of its Starlink satellite constellation. SpaceX is already beta-testing its preliminary constellation of greater than 1,600 satellites, and final month, it proposed two new choices for putting tens of hundreds of further satellites in low Earth orbit.

Amazon, in the meantime, remains to be engaged on its Venture Kuiper idea. Greater than 500 staff are at work at Kuiper’s facilities in Redmond, Wash. Antennas are being examined, and launch agreements are being struck — however no satellites have but been despatched into orbit.

Amazon objected to SpaceX’s newest request, saying that it shouldn’t have mixed two potential deployment methods in one proposal.

“To this straightforward drawback, Amazon proposed a easy treatment: choose a single constellation proposal (as all others do) and resubmit the modification,” Keisner wrote. “As a substitute, SpaceX selected a extra difficult path — one which entails misinformation, advert hominem assaults, and a perception that it might affect regulators by way of social media.”

On Twitter, for instance, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk took specific purpose at Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who stepped down from the corporate’s CEO function in July. “Seems Besos retired in order to pursue a full-time job submitting lawsuits in opposition to SpaceX,” Musk wrote in a tweet that misspelled Bezos’ title. In another tweet, Musk joked that the answer could be to “zap him on the top with our house lasers.”

Right this moment’s footnote-laced letter touches on events when SpaceX and Musk’s different predominant enterprise, Tesla, stirred up regulatory controversies — together with an unauthorized check launch of a SpaceX Starship prototype that ended in an explosion last year, questions concerning the construction of a Starship launch tower, Tesla’s tiff over a shelter-in-place order throughout the coronavirus pandemic, SpaceX’s lawsuits over launch contracts and a controversy over the design of Starlink antennas.

Most of these circumstances have been resolved to permit SpaceX and Tesla to maneuver ahead.

“If there may be something type to say about SpaceX’s method, it’s that it has been efficient in reaching SpaceX’s purpose of avoiding each the foundations and any sanction for flouting them,” Keisner wrote. “However SpaceX’s run of success with this technique could also be coming to an finish.”

Keisner referred to final yr’s award of $885 million in federal subsidies to SpaceX for enhancing rural broadband web entry. Within the months since then, some complained that cash from the subsidy program was going to areas that are already well-served with broadband, or to provide access in areas such as golf courses, traffic islands and parking lots.

In July, the FCC despatched a letter to SpaceX and scores of different subsidy recipients, giving them the chance to withdraw funding requests “the place important questions of waste have been raised.”

Keisner stated the FCC’s letter “supplies some hope {that a} change in SpaceX’s outcomes will immediate a change in its ways.” However he additionally issued a warning. “If SpaceX and Musk proceed to carry themselves above the foundations, they need to buckle up: they are going to solely draw additional protest from Amazon and others who need to see guidelines utilized to everybody equally,” he wrote.

Replace for 10:20 a.m. PT Sept. 10: SpaceX responded to Amazon’s letter by sending yet another letter to the FCC on Thursday. “One other week, one other objection from Amazon in opposition to a competitor, but nonetheless no signal of progress on Amazon’s personal long-rumored satellite system,” David Goldman, SpaceX’s director of satellite coverage, wrote in the letter.

Goldman stated Amazon’s newest objections have been “wholly irrelevant to the present continuing” and referred to as on the FCC to place SpaceX’s software out for remark from all members of the general public, “together with Amazon’s legion of lobbyists and legal professionals.”

In the meantime, Viasat filed its own objections to SpaceX’s doubled-up request for an amendment to its license and stated Amazon’s Venture Kuiper “has accurately famous that this request is essentially inconsistent” with the FCC’s guidelines.

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