The world’s two richest men have taken their rivalry into orbit.

SpaceX boss Elon Musk has accused Amazon chief Jeff Bezos of trying to “hamstring” his Starlink system – a chain of satellites designed to provide internet access to areas with no cable access.

Musk's Space X company wants to place Starlink into a much lower orbit than originally planned in order to provide faster download speeds. However Bezos has plans for his own rival system.

The $10 billion Amazon system, called Project Kuiper, will involve 3,236 internet satellites in low Earth orbit. Bezos has complained the US regulatory body the FCC that Musk’s system will prevent his system from operating.

Amazon maintain that Starlink should be limited to operating above an altitude of 360 miles to prevent interference with other systems.

Amazon legal expert Mariah Dodson Shuman wrote in a letter to the FCC.“SpaceX has indicated that it is capable of operating its system without exceeding 580 km [360 miles] and has not demonstrated why such a condition should not be effective immediately,”

Hearing that Bezos has applied to block the changes to Starlink – long before any Project Kuiper launches are on the drawing board – Musk angrily tweeted "It does not serve the public to hamstring Starlink today for an Amazon satellite system that is at best several years away from operation.”

SpaceX director David Goldman claimed that Amazon representatives have had 30 meetings with the FCC to oppose SpaceX but “no meetings to authorise its own system”

SpaceX currently has around 1,000 Starlink satellites in orbit, and invited to the public in several countries around the world to sign up to its “better Than Nothing” beta access in October 2020.

The service costs $99 (£72) a month, with a $499 (£360) startup cost. SpaceX plans to launch several thousand more satellites over the next few years and aims to soon be offering “near global coverage.”

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