By ROGER PARLOF
The spectacle of public sniping between the world’s two richest men, as they compete to shoot ever-larger rockets ever deeper into space, has been an irresistible one for media observers.
In recent months, SpaceX and Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk (net worth: $224 billion, per Bloomberg) has traded barbs with Amazon (AMZN) and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos (net worth: $189 billion) on Twitter, in media forums, and in legal filings that have ranged from sharp to snarky to—in Musk’s case—vulgar.
“Can’t get it up (to orbit) lol ,” Musk tweeted in April when NASA passed over Bezos’ Blue Origin for a multibillion-dollar contract.
Though he has mostly demurred on Twitter, Bezos unloaded both barrels at Musk last month—through a surrogate, at least—in an Amazon filing before the Federal Communications Commission.
“Whether it is launching satellites with unlicensed antennas,” his company’s satellite unit wrote, “launching rockets without approval, building an unapproved launch tower, or re-opening a factory in violation of a shelter-in-place order, the conduct of SpaceX and other Musk-led companies makes their view plain: rules are for other people.”
This article will peer beneath the insults to explain the facts and law surrounding the two high-stakes disputes that are currently generating most of the sparks between the men. One involves competition between SpaceX and Blue Origin for multibillion-dollar NASA Artemis contracts to take the first woman and first person of color to the moon by 2024—the first human moon landings in a half century.
The other is a tussle before the FCC over SpaceX’s attempt to upgrade its envisioned, next-generation 30,000-satellite Starlink network to provide high-speed internet services throughout the globe.
Amazon’s Project Kuiper, which seeks to set up a rival such network of 3,236 satellites, has opposed the amendment.
In response to Amazon’s opposition, Musk tweeted: “Filing legal actions against SpaceX is *actually* [Bezos’] full-time job.” (In July, Bezos stepped down as Amazon’s CEO, but remains actively involved in the company as its executive chairman.)
Filing legal actions against SpaceX is *actually* his full-time job pic.twitter.com/XifRICQ62k
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 1, 2021
SpaceX representatives did not respond to five inquiries for this article.
Spokespersons for Blue Origin and Amazon each declined comment.
A win for SpaceX—and dashed hopes for Blue Origin
The weightier dispute is the one between Blue Origin and SpaceX over the NASA contracts.
The competition began in October 2019, when NASA solicited bids for the first phase of a project to provide a Human Landing System for its Artemis Program, which plans lunar landings in 2024 and 2026 and, eventually, the establishment of a sustainable base on the moon. (Yahoo)