Armenian email campaign asks SpaceX not to help Turkish regime launch satellite – TechCrunch
SpaceX staff and members of the media were inundated this morning with emails apparently from concerned Armenians around the world, asking the company to cancel a launch contract with the Turkish government. The concerns are valid – and the mass email method surprisingly effective.
In the electronic form, received by TechCrunch staff hundreds of times in duplicate and with minor variations, the senders explain that they represent or stand in solidarity with Armenians around the world, an ethnic and national group that suffered under the regime. authoritarian and regional influence of Turkey. President, Tayyip Erdogan.
SpaceX is expected to launch Turkey’s Turksat-5A satellite in a month or two, an Airbus-built geostationary communications satellite that will serve much of Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The deal has been on the books for a long time, and SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk even traveled to Turkey to meet with Erdogan about the satellite in 2017.
To get into the complexities of long conflict in which Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey and neighboring countries and powers have been included is beyond the scope of this article, but it is hardly controversial to say that there has been serious human rights violations under the regime of Erdogan and others. The word “genocide” is frequently used.
As the email plea points out, many countries and governments have chosen to condemn Turkey’s behavior, and some companies have stopped doing business with the government. Will SpaceX join them?
At this point – a month before launch, when the payload is probably already locked down – it seems unlikely that SpaceX will return the millions of dollars Turkey arguably already paid, in order to appear more ethical in distorting, for so. say, the government there.
But the campaign raises a legitimate question increasingly faced by new tech-driven companies that grow to encompass a diverse and sometimes difficult to navigate global community. Where do companies like SpaceX – or Apple, or Google, or Facebook, or for that matter Airbus – draw the line? Should SpaceX be selfless and mercenary, just providing services to whoever pays? Or are there governments or people whose money will not be taken?
So far, SpaceX has not had to take too narrow a path on this front; The launch industry is heavily focused on military and government contracts, so the deal is already done with this particular devil. But as she becomes established and can be a bit more demanding with her clients, she may consider acting as a gatekeeper in the industry where 10 years ago she was a trailblazer.
As for the email campaign, TechCrunch staff were surprised at how well it evaded Google’s spam filters. I contacted the person indicated in the email as the initiator of the campaign, who did not identify himself beyond being part of the “Artsakh Strong” movement, for more information and to be removed from future emails (which I was).
The person explained that the emails were sent by individuals, and not from a central location, which, despite their duplicate content, may explain why they all reach our inboxes. “These are people coming together to make their unified voice heard,” she wrote. “We are not affiliated with any group, but our message is shared by all American Armenians. I apologize for the inconvenience of you having to delete excessive emails, but our people are being murdered on a daily basis and we need to bring attention to our cause.
She suggested that as an American company, SpaceX should embody the country’s (supposed) values and refuse to do business with regimes like Erdogan’s. Additionally, she noted that SpaceX receives a lot of funding and business from the U.S. government, which amounts to an indirect blessing of its deals as being in the public interest.
“There are calls for sanctions from Turkey by the United States and other NATO countries,” she wrote. “SpaceX is urged to take all of these factors into consideration and decide for itself whether or not it wishes to continue helping Turkey in the face of such overwhelming and clear evidence of criminal actions. At the very least, Elon Musk and SpaceX can stop the launch to see what those investigations lead to. While this could be a loss of profit for SpaceX, it would be a huge leap forward for global progress. “
Artsakh Strong raises legitimate points that many companies providing services internationally must address or have their intentions inferred from their actions. It cannot be the first, nor the last, that SpaceX or any of the new generations of space companies will have to make a difficult choice. At the very least, they could explain why they choose how they do it.
(Update: Artsakh Strong, which refers to the Republic of Artsakh, was originally identified as an individual in this post rather than a movement. This has been corrected and my ignorance exposed.)