The Forbes article With A Successful Launch, OneWeb Just Joined SpaceX And Others In The Satellite Internet Race says:

This marks a turning point in a new generation of communications satellites, which backers say will provide high-speed internet connectivity to the billions of people who still lack access to it. OneWeb joins SpaceX as the second company in this new generation of internet satellite to actually put spacecraft into orbit.

If OneWeb asked SpaceX to launch their internet satellites which compete with SpaceX's planned internet satellites, it might be in SpaceX's interest to say "no" and force them to go with a more expensive carrier, and to avoid the optics.

Question: But since SpaceX operates in a highly regulated niche within the already highly regulated transportation industry, would they be able to simply say "no, your money's no good here" or are there regulations that would requite them to treat all potential customers in a similar way?

I'm not asking if they could find a way to torpedo the deal or shuffle the schedule to OneWeb's disadvantage, I'm asking if they can just say no.

I'm looking for fact based answers, and those can include facts of laws and factual anecdotes where this issue may have already come up.

ex post factoid: SpaceX launches 40 OneWeb satellites into orbit, aces rocket landing

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    $\begingroup$ Not sure what exactly are you asking about. Why do you suspect that they wouldn't be able to say no? They're just a company like any other, they are free to choose who they don't do business with. Are you asking if they can afford the lost business or negative publicity? That's IMHO impossible to answer objectively without knowing the future financial situation of SpaceX. $\endgroup$
    – TooTea
    Feb 28, 2019 at 10:16
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    $\begingroup$ It's the business world. A simple "no" to such a request is not the kind of things you say in a polite company. "Oh but of course! That will be $750mln per launch, please!" is the politically correct way of saying "no" in the business world. $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Feb 28, 2019 at 14:23
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    $\begingroup$ @SF. We discuss com-sat stuff here all the time -- it's a stretch from exploration per se but it's never been flagged as off topic. $\endgroup$ Feb 28, 2019 at 23:58
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    $\begingroup$ I'm trying to find a source, but I recall that before Ariane, USA specifically forbade europe from launching a competing telecommunication network with its rockets. Edit: found it en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphonie#Launch_and_lifespan $\endgroup$
    – Antzi
    Mar 14, 2019 at 3:56
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    $\begingroup$ if people are down voting because they are certain the answer is obvious, I wonder why they aren't certain enough to post that as an answer? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    May 30, 2019 at 10:18

1 Answer 1


There are no such regulations, so I can't think of any reason why SpaceX couldn't refuse to launch a competitor's satellites.

The relevant regulator here is the FAA, and specifically AST. AST regulates the launch and reentry of space objects from the United States. AST's authority to regulate these activities is set out in U.S. law. That authority is focused almost entirely on the safety of operations (as well as some related topics like liability). So the short answer to the question is that no U.S. regulator has the ability to impose rules that would prevent SpaceX from discriminating against competitors.

There are two possible arguments that could be used to force SpaceX to accept competitor launches, but neither is currently available. First, if SpaceX and other launch providers were to be considered "common carriers", then they would not be allowed to discriminate against customers. I'm not an expert in common carrier law, but my understanding is that generally in the United States, industries are specifically designated as common carriers by legislation, either explicitly or by implication. There have been various laws in the past century or two that did that for rail operators, airlines, and see of course most recently the battle about net neutrality as this concept applies to telecoms. There has been no such legislation with regard to space launch providers.

Second, if SpaceX had a monopoly on space launches, the Department of Justice and other federal agencies could take enforcement action against them to require certain steps to protect the public. That would require actual monopoly power (which SpaceX does not have - in fact there are lots of new launchers coming online) - as well as extensive litigation, which has not occurred.


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