On Tuesday, Elon Musk accused Jeff Bezos and his companies of using the legal system to slow SpaceX’s progress during a talk at the 2021 Code Conference. Just a few hours later, Amazon — which is working on a competing satellite-based internet project — sent The Verge an unsolicited 13-page list of lawsuits, government petitions, and other legal actions that SpaceX has taken over the years.
“Attached is a list of some of the times SpaceX has sued the U.S. government on procurement matters and protested various governmental decisions,” a spokesperson for Amazon’s satellite division, Project Kuiper, wrote in the email. “It is difficult to reconcile their own historical record with their recent position on others filing similar actions.”
The list — published below, as Amazon insisted it was provided on the record — indeed contains a number of lawsuits filed by SpaceX, including some dating as far back as 2004, when Musk was still literally trying to get the startup off the ground. But it also includes more procedural actions, like times when SpaceX has filed opinions on how the government should allocate certain bands of spectrum for satellite communications — advocacy that has increased as SpaceX began building its Starlink satellite network.
All told, there are 39 actions documented in the list, split into three categories: litigation, protests with the Government Accountability Office, and oppositions filed with the FCC. Amazon made notes on each action, which stretch the table to be 13 pages long.
“We agree fully” with Amazon’s take, a spokesperson for Blue Origin said in an email to The Verge. “SpaceX is well aware, having benefitted from its own frequent protests and court filings against NASA and the U.S. Air Force, that such actions are common practice in the government procurement process.”
Moments after this story was published, Musk tweeted in response to Amazon’s statement that “SpaceX has sued to be *allowed* to compete, BO [Bezos’ space company, Blue Origin] is suing to stop competition.”
The list provides a window into just how closely Bezos’ company is tracking and scrutinizing SpaceX’s actions as it tries to compete in the nascent satellite internet market. It’s not the only list Amazon has compiled, either. Earlier this month, in a filing with the FCC, the company laid out a number of occasions where it believes Musk and SpaceX have bent or broken government rules:
“Try to hold a Musk-led company to flight rules? You’re ‘fundamentally broken,’” Amazon wrote in its filing, referring to the time Musk complained that the Federal Aviation Administration’s regulatory structure slowed down SpaceX’s operations. “Try to hold a Musk-led company to health and safety rules? You’re ‘unelected & ignorant,’” it added, referring to Musk’s beef with officials who sought to keep factories closed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
What’s somewhat surprising is that Amazon offered this unsolicited response, since Musk’s comments at Tuesday’s Code Conference event were specifically in reference to Bezos’ space company, Blue Origin, suing to stop NASA from awarding a lunar lander contract to SpaceX. “You cannot sue your way to the Moon, no matter how good your lawyers are,” he said.
Of course, Musk also recently criticized Amazon for taking legal action in the satellite internet space. In August, Musk maligned Bezos for stepping down from his CEO role at Amazon “in order to pursue a full-time job filing lawsuits against SpaceX” after Amazon protested an expansion of Starlink.
SpaceX did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Additional reporting from Joey Roulette.
Update September 29th, 4:13PM ET: Added tweet from Musk responding to Amazon’s statement.
Update September 29th, 7:40PM ET: Added comment from a Blue Origin spokesperson.