Capitalism in space? A three-judge panel on July 20, 2021 rejected Viasat’s request for a temporary injunction that would have stopped all SpaceX Starlink launches until Viasat’s lawsuit against that constellation is settled.
While this decision does not settle the lawsuit, it allows SpaceX launches to continue, and likely cause the case to be expedited in the courts. The decision also suggests that the court does not favor Viasat’s claims, which are somewhat dubious on their face, and appear designed merely to shut down a successful competitor through the use of the courts.
Viasat alleged that the FCC did not comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it approved SpaceX satellite launches because the commission “refused to conduct any environmental assessment.” Viasat told the DC Circuit court that SpaceX launches should be halted because of potential environmental harms when satellites are taken out of orbit; light pollution that alters the night sky; orbital debris; collision risks that may affect Viasat; and because “Viasat will suffer unwarranted competitive injury.”
The FCC by the way disputes Viasat’s claims, and filed its own brief defending SpaceX.
Viasat’s real concern is that its satellite internet service will be considered inferior to SpaceX’s and will thus lose customers to it. Too bad. Competition means you step up your game and do better, not go to court to try to shut down your opposition.
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