As part of an ongoing back-and-forth between billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk over their competing space ventures, Musk’s SpaceX has been accused by Bezos of flouting regulations — even though Bezos’s companies are also under scrutiny for breaking federal regulations.
A letter from Amazon to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) accuses Musk of violating a range of federal regulations:
“Whether it is launching satellites with unlicensed antennas, 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,” the letter reads. The doc was written by C. Andrew Keisner, the lead counsel for Amazon’s Kuiper Systems subsidiary—a longtime rival to Musk’s own Starlink project.
While SpaceX has indeed been under scrutiny for alleged violations of federal regulations, with the FAA even warning Musk that he may be required to dismantle an unauthorized launch tower, Bezos’s companies are also under legal and regulatory scrutiny.
As Bloomberg reported in July, when Blue Origin’s tourist rocket was sent to orbit this summer, it did so without a pilot or pressurized space suit — a standard safety feature in NASA rockets. Blue Origin was allowed to do so as a result of a giveaway from Congress.
The billionaires who blasted into space in recent weeks did so with style. Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos sported a cowboy hat after landing and Richard Branson wore a blue Virgin Galactic jumpsuit he’d called ‘sexy.’ To some of the world’s leading experts in space-travel safety, something else stood out: Neither company equipped the passengers of their spacecraft with pressure suits to protect them from a rapid decompression outside Earth’s atmosphere. Such suits are required by NASA and other nations as a result of hard-earned lessons from fatal accidents, but no such standards apply to the companies racing to commercialize space, including tourist flights. Congress has exempted such ventures in the U.S. from any federal safety oversight for crews.
However, it is Amazon, Bezos’s first company, that faces the most scrutiny. The company is currently facing a congressional investigation over anticompetitive behavior.
As of April, Amazon was facing questions from lawmakers over whether it lied to Congress about its relationship with third-party sellers on the e-commerce platform.
The representatives are reacting to a report from the Wall Street Journal that revealed Amazon employees have at times accessed data from individual marketplace sellers to help decide which products Amazon would create and sell under its own brand names, known as private-label brands. The report appears to contradict statements made under oath by a top Amazon lawyer, Nate Sutton, who stated at a congressional hearing led by one of the lawmakers that Amazon does not use data from individual sellers — and only uses data aggregated from multiple sellers — to create its own products.
In a statement sent to Recode on Thursday, Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), who leads the House antitrust subcommittee that is investigating Amazon and other tech giants, said, “At best, Amazon’s witness appears to have misrepresented key aspects of Amazon’s business practices while omitting important details in response to pointed questioning. At worst, the witness Amazon sent to speak on its behalf may have lied to Congress.”
Amazon is also facing continued pressure from employees who allege dire working conditions at its network of warehouses around the U.S. A lawsuit filed in May alleges that workers at a California fulfillment center were not given adequate breaks, while the California Senate has stepped in to force Amazon to disclose its notorious productivity quotas.
Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election.