The world’s two richest men Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are sparring over space real estate, with SpaceX accusing Amazon of ”stifling competition”.
Starlink is SpaceX’s ambitious project to launch and operate its own network of broadband satellites, which will provide low-cost Internet to remote locations on a global level.
Amazon.com Inc is set to invest more than $10 billion to build a network of 3,236 satellites that will provide high-speed broadband internet services to people around the world who lack such access.
The announcement follows the Federal Communications Commission’s approval of the plan, called “Project Kuiper”, for the constellation of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites that will compete with the Starlink network being built out by Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
As a result of a proposed change in SpaceX’s plan of launching broadband satellites, it might clash with Amazon.
Musk took to Twiter to express his frustration saying “It does not serve the public to hamstring Starlink today for an Amazon satellite system that is at best several years away from operation.”
Amazon hit back saying “The facts are simple. We designed the Kuiper System to avoid interference with Starlink, and now SpaceX wants to change the design of its system. Those changes not only create a more dangerous environment for collisions in space, but they also increase radio interference for customers.”
In a statement issued by Amazon, it said: “Despite what SpaceX posts on Twitter, it is SpaceX’s proposed changes that would hamstring competition among satellite systems. It is clearly in SpaceX’s interest to smother competition in the cradle if they can, but it is certainly not in the public’s interest.”
By comparison, SpaceX has launched over 500 satellites of the roughly 12,000 expected for its Starlink constellation in low Earth orbit and plans to offer broadband service in the United States and Canada by the year’s end. The FCC approved SpaceX’s request in 2018.
While extremely costly to deploy, satellite technology can provide high-speed internet for people who live in rural or hard-to-serve places where fiber optic cables and cell towers do not reach. The technology could also be a critical backstop when hurricanes or other natural disasters disrupts communication.
The FCC authorisation, adopted with a 5-0 vote, requires Amazon to launch half of its satellites no later than mid-2026 and build out the rest of the constellation by mid-2029.
Amazon said it would begin to offer broadband service once 578 satellites are launched. It had 110 open positions for its “Project Kuiper” posted on its website Thursday. The satellites will be designed and tested at a new research and development facility opening in Redmond, Washington.