In addition to the list of their public spats, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are at it again. The two billionaires are fighting over their interest in space. In particular, the conflict is over small satellite internet space after Bezos’s company Blue Origin filed a federal lawsuit to challenge a $2.8 billion contract by the US government to Musk’s company SpaceX.
The contract was awarded to SpaceX for future moon landings. The suit was sent to the Federal Communications Commission and harshly criticized the US government, arguing that SpaceX was breaking deployment rules with its Starlink satellites. The spat is between a subsidiary of Amazon called Kuiper Systems, which seeks to deploy a constellation of broadband satellites capable of providing high-speed broadband internet directly from space.
At the time of the suit, SpaceX has deployed several Starlink satellites operating in beta version in several countries: France, UK, the US, Germany, and Canada. Musk tweeted previously, indicating that the company was experiencing success with the project. However, a close review of the current situation puts Starlink at the forefront as it has more than 100,000 customer terminals which SpaceX refers to as Dishy McFlatface.
Mr. Musk, in an earlier interview, indicated that his company would offer download speeds of up to 50 Mbps. On the other hand, Bezos’ Kuiper Systems received FCC approval a year ago. FCC allowed the company to build Lower Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite constellation. The company stated that the constellation would provide fast, reliable, and cheap broadband internet to underserved and unserved parts of the world. The statement further pointed out that Amazon was investing over $10billion in the project, although it did not specify the investment period.
The main issue of contention between the two companies is how SpaceX will arrange the constellations. In conflict is whether SpaceX plans to use the Starship vehicle, a flagship vehicle capable of lifting heavy objects into space, or Falcon 9 rockets, known for their over 100 space missions. Sources within Amazon state that they are privy of SpaceX’s request to FCC where they choose to use Falcon 9 rockets rather than Starship vehicle. Individuals privy to the spat say that Amazon is unhappy because choosing the latter method will affect how Kuiper Systems operate and design their systems.
Amazon’s letter to FCC indicated that the company was concerned SpaceX was applying two different and mutually exclusive configurations going against public policy and FCC rules. However, Musk dismissed it as simply a complaint letter and nothing close to a lawsuit when asked about the FCC letter. He further criticized his rival for pursuing cases against SpaceX.