SpaceX’s ambitions for a “Gen2” system, which envisions a large constellation of heavier, but more powerful low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites that can be put into orbit using SpaceX’s new heavy-duty Starship rocket, are causing a squabble at the FCC.
To put it another way, Amazon’s Kuiper Systems, which is creating its own satellite-based broadband network, has encouraged the FCC to reject SpaceX’s revised plan, which involves two different satellite configurations. Amazon’s move, SpaceX retorted, is essentially a delaying strategy aimed to stifle competition.
Amazon requested the FCC to disqualify SpaceX’s Gen2 proposal, which includes two configurations that each call for the deployment of almost 30,000 LEO satellites, in an ex parte petition on August 25. Amazon contended that SpaceX must settle the details of its planned change before filing its application, not afterward, as required by FCC rules.
“Forcing both the Commission and interested parties to grapple with the interference concerns posed by two separate configurations doubles the technical effort of every operator faced with the task of reviewing the interference and orbital debris concerns raised by SpaceX’s amendment,” wrote Mariah Dodson Shuman, Kuiper Systems’ corporate counsel. “As a result, the Commission should uphold its regulations, dismiss SpaceX’s Amendment, and encourage SpaceX to resubmit its amendment once it has determined a single configuration for its Gen2 System.”
According to SpaceX, Amazon is attempting to buy time.
In a response filed on August 31, SpaceX dismissed Amazon/complaint Kuiper’s as petty, claiming that the request for rejection stems from SpaceX providing the FCC with “too much information about its next-generation constellation,” and is an attempt to slow competition while Amazon/Kuiper catches up.
“Amazon’s recent missive is unfortunately only the latest in its ongoing efforts to stifle competition while failing to address the Commission’s concerns about Amazon’s own nongeostationary orbit (“NGSO”) satellite system,” wrote David Goldman, SpaceX’s director of satellite policy, in a letter to the FCC, urging the agency to put SpaceX’s application out for public comment as soon as possible. “Amazon’s track record suggests that as it falls behind competitors, it is more than prepared to utilize regulatory and legal processes to erect barriers to prevent those competitors from lagging even farther.”
Goldman goes on to say that Amazon/Kuiper is dragging its feet in releasing information on its own planned system in terms of interference and debris, but is quick to obsess over and protest to SpaceX’s Gen2 system.
“In reality, Amazon has not had a single meeting with the Commission this year on how it plans to resolve the Commission’s interference or safety concerns,” Goldman wrote, “but it has had 15 meetings just regarding SpaceX in the same time.” “While SpaceX has deployed over 1,700 satellites, Amazon has yet to address the electromagnetic interference and orbital debris challenges that must be fixed before Amazon’s constellation can be deployed.”