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Viasat asks FCC to block further launches of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites

Capitalism in space? The geosynchronous communications satellite company Viasat has demanded the FCC freeze any further launches of SpaceX’s quickly growing constellation of Starlink satellites.

The company claims a recent modification of SpaceX’s FCC license should not have been granted without a new environmental review of the 4,000+ satellite constellation’s impact.

Viasat is asking the FCC to hit pause on further launches until federal courts can review the legality of the license modification.

Carlsbad, California-based Viasat, which provides broadband services from geostationary orbit (GEO), had petitioned the FCC to conduct an environmental review before granting the license modification as part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which currently categorically exempts satellite systems, but says this did not happen despite megaconstellations bringing new considerations for regulators.

Some astronomers had also requested an environmental assessment, worried about how the constellation’s reflectivity affects ground-based telescope observations.

What is really happening here is that Viasat, having discovered its market share is seriously threatened by a competitor, is trying to use the government to squelch that competition. Viasat doesn’t really give a twit about the environmental issues. It is launching its own new three-satellite geosynchronous constellation next year to provide broadband services globally, and Starlink’s success threatens to cut into its profits.

The article also reveals one interesting tidbit about former NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine. During his short three-year tenure heading NASA he aggressively moved to encourage provide competition and private enterprise by transferring the design, construction, and ownership of rockets and spaceships from NASA to the commercial sector.

Now that he is out of the government however he — like most Washington swamp creatures — has discovered his true calling: using his influence to squelch private competition:

In April, former NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine joined Viasat’s board of directors. Bridenstine told SpaceNews in an interview at the time that the threat of megaconstellations to space safety, and the overall space access environment, were among issues on his radar.

Like a ventriloquist’s dummy, Bridenstine upon leaving NASA immediately began mouthing the manufactured concerns of his new patrons at Viasat. To hell with allowing real competition and freedom. It is much more important to manipulate the power of the government to prevent Viasat’s competitors from succeeding. And earn a nice big salary at the same time.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

 
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

 
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

 
Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

6 comments

  • William Frumkin

    Just a bitter, old technology rival.

  • Jay

    William hit the nail on the head. I look forward to having an alternative to the Big-3 of satellite internet (Hughes, Viasat and WildBlue). Still waiting for my Starlink box.
    Some of the airlines I have flown use Viasat for their inflight wi-fi. Most of the time it is down and they make that announcement at the beginning of the flight. Not a good track record.
    Maybe Viasat should stop and start looking at making their own low orbit system or team up with a company that has one. I was going to say OneWeb, but Hughes already has their hands on that one. I wouldn’t touch Amazon-Kuiper with a 10 meter pole.

  • Mike Borgelt

    Amazing how many swamp creatures there are.

  • mpthompson

    More like crony capitalism in space.

    I’m disappointed with Bridenstine. I thought he was one of the good guys. Sigh…

  • Jeff Wright

    I can see folks worried about space junk-but what I would have done is to build Orbital Antenna Farms to broadcast uber high-def content-but let Musk have his “internet-in-the-sky.” Do something different.

    If the Bride’ of Viasat talks ecology-Musk should call any pause a free-speech violation…which it is. It reminds me of the Santorum Accu-Weather Bill.

    Here is an idea: any space company with a legal dept. is not allowed in-space assets, unless they sign away any lawsuits against any competitor.

    Were I Musk, I might try to step it up…expend some birds with legs cut off and ripple fire the rest off single use pads. If he can’t do that…. give the info to Parler on how to control Starlink-with it being free now. That will kill the big tech demon. Splash his inventory so it cannot be seized-with the last Falcon hidden somewhere as an ASAT….the Damocles Option.

  • Trent Castanaveras

    Teslarati leans heavily Tesla and SpaceX, but this article captures the appropriate tone perfectly:

    https://www.teslarati.com/spacex-starlink-viasat-cant-compete-fcc/

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