Elon Musk goads Jeff Bezos on Twitter as their prolonged space spat escalates

Musk and Bezos
The rivalry between SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has surfaced on Twitter. Again. (Musk Photo: TED via YouTube; Bezos Photo: GeekWire / Kevin Lisota)

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has fired a fresh volley of tart tweets at Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and the Blue Origin space venture, in the midst of a regulatory tussle over SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation and Amazon’s competing Project Kuiper concept.

And this time, space lasers are involved.

The spark that lit Musk’s latest flame war came after SpaceX sought the Federal Communications Commission’s approval to amend plans for sending up tens of thousands of Starlink satellites to provide global broadband service. The amendment would let SpaceX use its Starship mega-rocket, currently under development, to put its Gen2 satellites into an assortment of orbits.

In response, Amazon urged the FCC to turn back SpaceX’s request, saying that the amendment proposes “two mutually exclusive configurations” for the Starlink constellation and leaves too many details unsettled. And in response to that, SpaceX told the FCC that Amazon’s filing was “only the latest in its continuing efforts to slow down competition.”

SpaceX also complained that Amazon was neglecting to resolve the FCC’s concerns about Project Kuiper. The FCC gave conditional approval to Amazon’s plans more than a year ago — provided that the Kuiper satellites didn’t interfere with previously approved satellite systems, including Starlink. SpaceX noted that Amazon hasn’t yet filed documents showing how it planned to avoid interference and ensure safe satellite operations.

More than 1,700 first-generation Starlink satellites have already been launched in accordance with previous FCC approvals, and the internet service is currently in expanded beta testing.

The Starlink spat comes amid the backdrop of legal protests that Bezos’ other big brainchild, Blue Origin, has filed against NASA for awarding a $2.9 billion lunar lander contract to SpaceX. Because of Blue Origin’s lawsuit, NASA and SpaceX have suspended work to adapt Starship as the landing system for a crewed mission to the moon, which is currently set for as early as 2024. (That date seems increasingly unlikely, however, and not just because of the lawsuit.)

In today’s tweets, Musk touched on the FCC filings as well as the lunar lander dispute, referring to Bezos without mentioning him by name:

SpaceX responds to Amazon's request that the FCC dismiss the Starlink Gen2 amendment, calling it "a continuation of efforts by the Amazon family of companies to hinder competitors" and referencing Blue Origin's lawsuit against NASA:

Highlights mine: https://t.co/BOv7HB95cD $AMZN pic.twitter.com/oq3Clqe6Tx

— Michael Sheetz (@thesheetztweetz) September 1, 2021

Filing legal actions against SpaceX is *actually* his full-time job pic.twitter.com/XifRICQ62k

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 1, 2021

As it presses its case against NASA in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, Blue Origin has hired former Amazon consultants linked to the JEDI contracting process.https://t.co/y5P09HUJp0

— Eric Berger (@SciGuySpace) September 1, 2021

He should consider spending some money on actual lunar lander hardware, instead of shady lobbyists

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 1, 2021

At what point does @elonmusk have a Falcon Heavy hover over Bezos's house all day? https://t.co/6l4Cw03rmY

— Ashlee Vance (@ashleevance) September 1, 2021

Maybe zap him on the head with our space lasers …

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 1, 2021

Musk also referred to Bezos last week in a Twitter exchange, although he misspelled the billionaire’s name:

Another front in a growing rivalry: Amazon Urges FCC to Deny SpaceX's Plan for Second-Generation Starlink https://t.co/bHn85RsmW4 #PCMag

— Christian Davenport (@wapodavenport) August 26, 2021

Turns out Besos retired in order to pursue a full-time job filing lawsuits against SpaceX …

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 27, 2021

We’ve reached out to Amazon and to Blue Origin for any response, but it’s unlikely that Bezos himself will engage in return fire. The most recent posting to Bezos’ Twitter account is a year and a half old, and previous taunts from Musk have failed to get a rise. Nowadays, Bezos prefers to post Instagram updates, one of which said nice things about SpaceX. (Musk swore off Instagram in 2018, but his old account endures as a fan site.)

Meanwhile, the FCC has just posted a new filing in which Amazon seeks the commission’s go-ahead to test prototype antennas for Project Kuiper at its labs in Redmond, Wash.

“This grant would serve the public interest by enabling Amazon to further enhance and validate the components of the Kuiper System,” the company said.

No Kuiper satellites have been sent into orbit yet, but in April, Amazon struck a deal with United Launch Alliance for nine launches that would use ULA’s Atlas V rockets.

Space Blue origin Broadband Elon musk Fcc Jeff bezos Project kuiper Satellite Satellites Spacex Starlink