Amazon on August 25, 2021 filed a protest with the FCC against SpaceX’s proposed expansion of its Starlink constellation that would allow almost 30,000 satellites to be launched.
“Should the Commission depart from its rules and precedent and endorse the approach of applying for multiple, mutually exclusive configurations, the consequences will extend far beyond the SpaceX Amendment,” wrote Mariah Shuman, corporate counsel for Amazon’s broadband megaconstellation venture Project Kuiper, in an Aug. 25 letter to the FCC. “However inefficient this strategy might be for the Commission and parties responding to applications, other prospective licensees will surely see the benefit in maximizing their optionality by describing multiple configurations in their license applications.”
Shuman asked the FCC to “dismiss SpaceX’s Amendment, and invite SpaceX to resubmit its amendment after settling on a single configuration for its Gen2 System.”
It appears Amazon does not want the FCC to approve multiple proposed satellite configurations put forth by SpaceX in a single application. Instead, it wants the FCC to force SpaceX to pick one, and submit that alone. It also appears that doing what Amazon requests would be more in line with past FCC policy.
While Amazon might have a point, the optics once again make another Jeff Bezos’ company look ugly, more interested in using the courts to stymie its competitors than actually launching anything. Amazon’s Kuiper internet constellation was first proposed in early 2019. More than two years have passed and none of its more than 3200 satellites have launched — not even one test satellite — with no clear indication yet on when launches will finally begin.
SpaceX began testing its Starlink system in 2018, and already has about 1,700 operational satellites in orbit. The comparison between the two companies is stark, and not favorable to Amazon.
In fact, Elon Musk was not shy in taking advantage of these optics to note them quite sharply in a tweet yesterday, saying, “Turns out Besos [sic] retired in order to pursue a full-time job filing lawsuits against SpaceX.”
Amazon is not Blue Origin, but both companies were founded by Bezos, and it appears right now that both prefer court battles to rocket engineering.