back to article Amazon says Elon Musk's wicked, wicked ways mean SpaceX's Starlink 2.0 should not be allowed to fly

Amazon.com has written a very-colorfully-worded letter to the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), urging it to take a strong stance when considering SpaceX's satellite broadband business because Elon Musk is a cheat who messes things up – for those who need better internet connections, and totally not for …

  1. Binraider Silver badge

    Rather than screaming and throwing toys out of the pram, perhaps Bezos could build something sometime this decade with capabilities beyond what Mercury-Redstone achieved? The Vulcan rocket is delayed, waiting on Blue Origin engines. As if anyone needed any reminders of Bezos' wrongs, kicking and screaming legal action because they aren't competitive seems to be par for the course.

    See also, Amazon paid just under 3% corporation tax on it's profits in the UK this year.

    1. MyffyW Silver badge
      Coat

      All this has happened before...

      Tesla, Edison.... all we need now is a pandemic respiratory tract infection, a moribund economy and a crisis of confidence in western democracy ... oh dear, mine's the one with a copy of On Liberty in the pocket.

    2. Geoff Campbell Silver badge

      Corporation Tax

      Figures, please? All reports I have read don't actually state how much profit was made, they instead choose to quote turnover. Corporation Tax is levied on profit, not turnover, but that apparently doesn't matter to journalists.

      From the figures I saw, Amazon appear to be running at about 10% net profit, which sounds about right for the retail side.

      GJC

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Corporation Tax

        Amazon haven't published any data on intercompany transfers, which means they could easily have decided Amazon UK Ltd have to rent the Amazon name and AWS hosting from Amazon Tax Haven Ltd for a figure that mysteriously matches the profit they would otherwise have made.

        Not saying they did, but they haven't published anything showing how they came up with their pre-tax profit figure

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Corporation Tax

          They also claim they have invested something in the region of £30billion in the Uk over the last 10 years or so. How much that actually benefits the UK and the economy is another matter, but there are at least three massive Amazon warehouses that have appeared with 20 miles of my location over the last few years.

    3. Cuddles

      "See also, Amazon paid just under 3% corporation tax on it's profits in the UK this year."

      It's fine to dislike Amazon; I haven't used them for years now because I dislike them enough to actually put my money where my mouth is. But I don't understand why people insist on making up nonsensical lies about them at every opportunity. According to recent news reports, Amazon paid just under £500 million on revenue of about £20 billion. We don't tax based on revenue, we tax profits. As Geoff Campbell notes, Amazon's retail operations generally have a profit margin similar to other retailers, on the order of 10%. The UK corporate tax rate is currently 19%. So as long as their profit margin isn't significantly higher than around 12.5%, they appear to be paying exactly what they are supposed to.

      Personally I would argue that they, and other large businesses, should be paying significantly more. But whatever things Amazon have done wrong, and there are plenty, failing to hand over large piles of money to a tax man who hasn't asked for it really isn't one of them. That's the government's failing, not Amazon's.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        >We don't tax based on revenue, we tax profits.

        And unfortunately in modern accounting 'profits' have become that bit you are prepared to pay tax on.

        Amazon make low margins on retail, by charging its national subsidiaries licensing fees for 'Amazon' brands held in tax-havens and by subsidizing retail with money-making AWS which is billed from other tax havens.

        .

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          " by charging its national subsidiaries licensing fees for 'Amazon' brands held in tax-havens "

          This is the shuffle part of the shell game that needs to be stomped on worldwide and what I think the USA is taking a particular interest in in terms of tax avoidance/evasion line straddling

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The £492 million in tax is not corporation tax, and this is material in any moral judgements (accepting that tax laws are convoluted and skewed).

        According to Amazon and as reported by the BBC, that amount includes business rates, stamp duty, corporation tax and other contributions. Quote "Amazon said employers' national insurance taxes accounted for the majority of the bill as it took on 22,000 more staff over the course of the last year." The report goes on to say "The company's indirect tax bill came to £1.06bn, up from £854m, driven by VAT on increased sales and employee taxes, as it took on more people and increased wages."

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          And of course the VAT figure is irrelevant, because Amazon don't pay VAT. They collect on behalf of the Government.

          So lumping that in is definitely at attempt to hide something.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Devil

      > [ ... ] Amazon paid just under 3% corporation tax on it's profits in the UK this year.

      THEY ACTUALLY PAID TAX?!?!?!?!?!?

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "See also, Amazon paid just under 3% corporation tax on it's profits in the UK this year."

      FWIW, they paid 3% tax in total. The majority of which was employers NI contributions. The portion of the tax they paid that was corporation tax was very much lower than 3%.

  2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Whilst Musk is no saint, he's clearly made much progress in space flight. Bezos' crew haven't gotten very far at all and are now using lawyers to try to hide their incompetence.

    What's the saying? "If you can't beat 'em on the high street, strangle them in court"?

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      I think Bezos has a point. Musk's FCC application is vague. Other operators of satellite broadband, current or future need to know what SpaceX's constellation will be. It's a bit of a space-grab, potentially locking out other operators from the orbits and possibly spectrum.

      AFAIK both SpaceX and Bezos's constellations are low LEO, and satellites kind of designed to fail, ie drag will eventually lead to de-orbiting and flaming satellites burning up. But given the huge number of satellites proposed by all operators, there seems to be a bigger risk of collisions, potentially creating a lot of debris that future launches would have to avoid.

      I'm curious how treaties deal with this as it's a bit of a US orbit-grab. I know for geostationary satellites, treaties allocated slots to countries based on a use it or lose it policy. For LEOs, it seems more of a free for all, both in terms of altitude and spectrum allocation/usage.

      1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

        The SpaceX application may or may not be to vague but that's for the FCC to accept or reject, not Bezos (though financial clout seems to matter more to US regulators rather than actual legal argument).

        If Bezos and Musk dislike each other, so what? Let them squabble about their bits, sometimes that stimulates competition rather than stifling innovation (and irrespective of what you think about Musky, shaking the tree of rocket innovation seems to be his thing).

      2. KarMann Silver badge
        Mushroom

        AKA Kessler Syndrome

        potentially creating a lot of debris that future launches would have fail to avoid.
        FTFY

        No boom today. Boom tomorrow. There's always a boom tomorrow. -->

      3. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        The point Bezos fails to make

        According to the complaint, SpaceX's application is two different specific requests. Each request individually is specific and the only vagueness is which one will actually happen. Part of the complaint is that the FCC will have to do double the work to process the application. IMarrogantO, the FCC are perfectly capable of speaking up if this is a problem for them.

        The other part of the complaint is that Amazon and OneWeb have to do double the work. The elephant that Amazon is trying to hide is that the USA is not the only place in the world where LEO satellite internet providers will operate. For some other parts of the world they will need ITU approval. Applications to the ITU can and often do contain a complete alternative proposal. The "extra work" Starlink's competitors have to do for this FCC application is work they are doing anyway for Starlink's ITU application.

        This is just a re-run of complaining about SpaceX getting special government hand-outs for commercial crew (Blue Origin got awards for the first round of Commercial Cargo but decided not to bid on Commercial crew). It is a re-run of Blue complaining to the GAO that NASA should have paid them double what they will pay Spacex, but for a non-compliant proposal that barely meets the initial 2 astronaut requirement and does not meet the later 4 astronaut requirement. When the GOA trashed Blue's complaint they took it to the courts where they can delay funding to the end of the year before the court will trash their complaint again.

        OneWeb has satellites in orbit. Kuiper doesn't (should launch on the retiring Atlas V so not stuck behind late delivery of Blue's engines). Branson can put stuff in orbit (Virgin Orbit). Blue Origin can't. Various new space companies are hiring ex-Blue staff who left Blue because Jeff is working hard to become the USA's leading vexatious litigant.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The point Bezos fails to make

          I think NASA should countersue BO for being a bag of dicks. But that's just me. :)

      4. vtcodger Silver badge

        Space is BIG and satellites aren't

        The concern about collisions between satellites is understandable, but very likely largely unwarranted. Even if humanity ends up with 100,000 communication satellites zipping around in Low Earth orbit, that is only a small fraction of the amount of junk already up there. It is estimated that there are in excess of 500,000 sand to small pebble (1-10 mm) objects "flying" around up there. Since closing velocities between orbiting stuff are potentially very high -- if things want to stay in orbit, they have to move very fast -- roughly 8km/s -- even small objects are potentially capable of punching right through anything they hit. Since that does not seem to happen very often, I expect that satellite collisions will be quite rare. If collisions do turn out to be an issue, that can presumably be handled as it is with aircraft, by small, mandated, vertical separation.

        (However, it possibly is important that only the satellite makes it to LEO and that any associated junk -- fittings discarded during deployment, etc -- returns toward Earth and burns up promptly in the atmophere.)

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Space is BIG and satellites aren't

          Unfortunately if there is a collision the debris tends to go out in all directions. Dynamics are complex but junk can get lifted 100km from the quickly decayed low orbit to much longer live higher orbit.

          This was the problem with the 'not at all an ABM weapon" test the Chinese did a couple of years ago - they boosted a bunch of the debris 500km higher

          1. FeepingCreature

            Re: Space is BIG and satellites aren't

            This is not how orbits work. You cannot get junk lifted from a collision into a "higher orbit" unless you also accept a lowered perigee, unless you lift it high enough to get a gravity assist from the moon. Basically, all debris from a collision ends up on an orbit that passes through the height where the collision happened, since orbits in a simple system, ie. dominated by the gravity of one body, don't change on their own, and they're only getting acceleration once at the point of collision. So it either stays in the same height and eventually reenters the atmosphere, or it ends up elliptical, at which point it will probably end up lower than before on one side and reenter the atmosphere then, or at the very most dip as low as the initial orbit again. You cannot get to a uniformly higher orbit from a single impulse.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Unhappy

          Re: Space is BIG and satellites aren't

          >I expect that satellite collisions will be quite rare

          There has already been one accidental collision between two intact satellites.

          Numerous satellites have been damaged by debris - this year they include this Chinese weather satellite and the International Space Station.

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: Space is BIG and satellites aren't

            There has already been one accidental collision between two intact satellites.

            Interesting, especially potential liability issues. So for SpaceX, presumably clearer definition of Launching State*, and if such event happens, the US would be responsible..

            However, it is unclear whether the Launching State for Iridium 33 is Russia, the United States, or Kazakhstan as Iridium 33 was not registered with the United Nations, as required by the 1974 Registration Convention

            But then what? Fine SpaceX? Order them to clean up the mess.. somehow. But as Musk apparently can get air cushions and bearings to work in a vacuum, he can probably invent a space vacuum as well.

          2. vmy2197

            Re: Space is BIG and satellites aren't

            Musk is creating a huge collision problem with Starlink and should be stopped. It's like Teslas on autopilot in space.

            https://www.space.com/spacex-starlink-satellite-collision-alerts-on-the-rise

            1. Ciaran McHale

              Re: Space is BIG and satellites aren't

              I don't know much about space, rockets and satellites, so I can't comment on how big is the problem you mention. However, given the context of the article, it seems you are claiming it is bad for SpaceX in particular to be causing this problem and it would be less bad if another company caused the problem instead. I don't follow the logic of that.

        3. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Space is BIG and satellites aren't

          Since closing velocities between orbiting stuff are potentially very high -- if things want to stay in orbit, they have to move very fast -- roughly 8km/s -- even small objects are potentially capable of punching right through anything they hit.

          While theoretically true, but things in the same orbit move in the same direction and with the same speed. Problems only occur when things are in crossing orbits and only if the things are both*) at the crossing point of the orbits at the same time.

          *)A three (or more) way collision is theoretically possible, but so unlikely I will leave it to the theorists.

      5. Jaybus

        The Chinese state-owned company GW is also putting up a mega-constellation. So it isn't just a US orbit-grab, if that makes you feel better.

  3. Geoff Campbell Silver badge
    Mushroom

    <Fetches popcorn>

    It's a sure sign that a corporation has accepted that they have been firmly beaten when they lawyer up.

    GJC

  4. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    WTF?

    But of course

    Everyone should pay attention to Bezo. After all, he is the world expert on illegal and deceptive practices.

    /s

  5. SundogUK Silver badge

    "making life hell for unions" You say that like you think it's a bad thing...

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      Probably because it is.

      Making life hell for the unions is an attempt to limit the power held by the workforce, as opposed to the landed gentry.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Forty years ago you may have had a point. Unions back then saw themselves as the rightful successors of democratic government. Now, the boot is on the other foot. I expect the pendulum is going to swing back again over the next decade or so. Bosses need to make money, otherwise everyone ends up broke. Workers need a decent life, otherwise they are broke already. Maybe one day people will wise up to how pointless this historical squabble is and simply place the pendulum in the middle and say "Don't touch!".

      1. Ciaran McHale

        From what I have read on the Internet, I get the impression that some countries are more prone to employee exploitation than others, and hence can benefit more from having unions. So when you say something to the effect of, "unions were useful 40 years ago but are not so useful now", I think you should indicate which country you are referring to.

  6. Howard Sway Silver badge

    Rules are for other people

    If Amazon think they can swing public opinion by trotting out this little gem, they must be totally deranged by their success. Considering their attitude to rules about employee rights, taxation, competition and other such trivia, they are not exactly operating from any moral high ground.

    This pathetic "my rocket's better than your rocket" nonsense will hopefully cheapen their ego trips in the minds of many. I hope this row becomes louder, more intense and ever more revealing of the personalities of the rich boys with their big toys....

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Oh no worry there, it will.

    2. Mishak Silver badge

      Toys

      Don't forget, one of them isn't into toys and is providing launch services to multiple organisations.

    3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Rules are for other people

      Remember it doesn't need to swing public opinion - it just needs to 'incentivize' one politician on the right committee to get a hold on SpaceX for long enough to cause financial difficulties.

      Or for SpaceX to just say fsck-it and move the launch site to a more accommodating country. Remember where all the world's semiconductors come from? No reason why some other small island couldn't also be the place that the worlds space launches come from.

      You used to be able to stop this by blocking export of 'military space technology' - but this is going to be harder if you make the motors in S Africa with Japanese machine tools and German raw materials.

      1. Mishak Silver badge

        "move the launch site to a more accommodating country"

        Not that simple, as they are subject to ITAR restrictions and FAA control.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: "move the launch site to a more accommodating country"

          Outside the USA they wouldn't be subject to FAA

          And would ITAR actually objections work?

          Musk is also a ZA citizen, a bunch of the early engineers were european.

          The engines are built in-house. The software can be written anywhere

          If you had German engineers designing parts machined in S Africa on Korean machine tools with software written by remote Estonian and Indian programmers with Taiwanese semicondctors and launched from Namibia - where is ITAR ?

          The USA could go nuclear on them and shut down spaceX funding/banking/customers but that would just drive commercial space into being an Indian/European/Chinese/Gulf market - and the USA would join Russia as a cold war relic space program.

          Imagine if the USA was the only nation without satelite internet because only ULA was allowed to launch it and they charged a rate that only the DoD could pay.

  7. alain williams Silver badge

    Amazon is just showing off ...

    its extensive range of black pots & kettles.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Amazon is just showing off ...

      "Mr. Kettle? Mr Pot on line 4."

  8. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Summing up that letter

    AK: Musk does bad stuff. Musk horrible. Musk rude.

    Also AK: When he doesn't get his way, Musk resorts to ad-hominem attacks.

    Pot, meet kettle.

  9. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    I love it !

    Gigantic megacorp bad mouths rival gigantic magecorp leader that is trouncing it in one specific market.

    None of the arguments are very impressive, given where they are coming from, but hey, Bezos has now firmly demonstrated his total lack of class and willingness to stoop to any level to try and get his way.

    Funny, there was a time when that was called "leadership" . . .

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: I love it !

      For a moment, I read that as:

      "and willingness to poop on any level"

      1. KarMann Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: I love it !

        I was too busy chuckling over the magecorp to misread that particular bit.

  10. This is not a drill
    Mushroom

    There only one way to settle this...

    Pity that you can't post images on El Reg forum, but to quote Harry Hill ... Fiigghhhtt!!!

  11. Daytona955

    "Plus my rocket looks like a MASSIVE KNOB. So there!"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's quite a bit smaller than Elon's.....

      1. Andy The Hat Silver badge
        Coat

        It's not the size that matters ...

        Even though in this case Bonzo's is admittedly smaller and although he can get it up he can't do a lot with it before it comes down again ...

  12. TVU Silver badge

    "Amazon says Elon Musk's wicked, wicked ways mean SpaceX's Starlink 2.0 should not be allowed to fly"

    *sigh* This is just another petulant missive from a sore loser who still hasn't been able to get anything into Earth orbit.

  13. lglethal Silver badge
    Go

    Ok lets be clear here...

    First, Space X's application is a shit show it is basically a space grab and should be rejected until they actually specify exactly what they are doing, which bandwidths they are claiming, and which orbits.

    Second, Blue Origin's letter is also a shit show and is absolutely pathetic.

    In dealing with a regulator like the FCC, Blue Origin could have easily pointed out the problems with the Space X application without turning it into a personal attack (ok it's a corporation not a person, but you know what i mean). That's what consultations periods are for, for people to put forth reasoned arguments for or against something happening. You dont attack the character of the firm your arguing against, especially when your own firm (or its owner) are clearly going to come across as major hypocrites.

    Play the Ball, not the Man. Or dont play at all...

    Hopefully the FCC, tells Blue Origin their letter is unhelpful and useless. AND turns around and tells Space X to come back with a proper proposal....

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can we just take a moment and consider the fact that Elon Musk can't spell "Bezos"?

    1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Big Brother

      It's probably a calculated way for pedo guy to avoid another defamation suit.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Joke

      B. O. Z. O. S. - right?

    3. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      It's entirely possible that it was autocorrect, or possibly Musk in fact meant to send kisses to Jeff.

    4. Proton_badger

      Besos

      Musk is a smart man. "Besos" is Spanish for "kisses", it's speculated to be an intentional and ironic play on Jeffrey Besos' "sweet" personality.

  15. Trollslayer
    Flame

    Pot

    Kettle.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The one thing you can count on with ANY megacorp is that they "think the rules are for other people." It doesn't matter if it is Amazon, Facebook, a Musk-led company, or AT&T and IBM for that matter. American "business" is BUILT on breaking and bending rules. They call it "competitive advantage", legal or no.

  17. Nifty

    Wait till new users whose IP addresses originating with SpaceX's network start buying streamed content on Prime. It will go mysteriously quiet.

    1. Geoff Campbell Silver badge
      Go

      Prime via Starlink

      It's working fine currently.

      GJC

  18. A. Coatsworth Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Let them fight and -hopefully- strangle each other's company to death.

    For once in my life I wouldn't mind if the lawyers were the only winners: the world would be a better place without these two attention wh0res.

  19. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    Is Spacex a "megacorp"?

    On the basis that it does one thing (launch rockets) from one place (the US) and has lots of launch competition both in the US and abroad, how does that make it a "megacorp"? I would regard that word to fit a world-wide company with fingers in lots of pies with loads of subsidiaries (like Amazon, P&G, Boeing, FaceAche, most of the big banking corporations etc). SpaceX *may* become a world player if it's sat comms system actually works out and everyone jumps onboard but, as yet, that's just pie in the sky ...

  20. macjules
    Devil

    Dear Mr Bezos

    The last but one person* who attacked me received a free Tesla Roadster, has a rather good view of your home and I dare say even one of your concentration camps distribution centres from orbit.

    * The last one I called a pedo guy since he didn't like my idea about rescuing children from a cave.

    Yours,

    Elon

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    rules are for other people

    karma. bitch. pleased to meet you.

    But I guess amazon have grown too large not only to fail, but to ridicule...

  22. martinusher Silver badge

    SpaceX does complain about rules, but....

    The problem with SpaceX is that they're trying to evolve a commercial operation in industries that are dominated by big aerospace players that are essentially working for the government. Launches were few and far between, they took place in a couple of well known places and every one was a spectacle. Government regulations evolved for this older era of space exploration and these regulations don't manage well with the needs of the rapid pace of commercial development. A non-SpaceX example is the trouble that Virgin got into with their recent 'edge of space' flight. It deviated from the filed flight plan, possibly due to a technical issue, and it wasn't life threatening but it still brought the weight of the FAA down on it (who grounded Virgin pending an investigation). The problem here seems to be that they're not sure whether Virgin's 'thing' is a rocket or a plane, there's practically a hundred years of regulation and bureaucracy that somehow has to be massaged to fit a world that changed under their feet while they weren't looking. (FWIW -- the FAA is having a lot of problems with UAVs -- drones -- because the technology got away from them. They've evolved regulations but they don't seem to be particularly useful or even enforceable.)

    I have reservations about companies cramming thousands of satellites into low Earth orbit but I think that Amazon's complaints are just sour grapes. SpaceX promised and delivered. I'm waiting for someone to successfully copy them.

  23. Winkypop Silver badge
    Stop

    These guys need to get a…

    …planet to themselves.

    Leave us in peace.

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