SpaceX says it can no longer pay for critical satellite services in Ukraine

Elon Musk’s SpaceX asked the Pentagon to pick up the tab, after months of funding the internet service in Ukraine through roughly 20,000 Starlink satellite units.

CNN reports that documents obtained by the media show that last month Musk’s SpaceX sent a letter to the Pentagon saying it can no longer continue to fund the Starlink service as it has. The letter also requested that the Pentagon take over funding for Ukraine’s government and military use of Starlink, which SpaceX claims would cost more than $120 million for the rest of the year and could cost close to $400 million for the next 12 months. The full text of CNN’s article can be found here.

Since they first started arriving in Ukraine last spring, the Starlink satellite internet terminals made by Elon Musk’s SpaceX have been a vital source of communication for Ukraine’s military, allowing it to fight and stay connected even as cellular phone and internet networks have been destroyed in its war with Russia.

According to a tweet by Elon Musk, the “operation has cost SpaceX $80 million and will exceed $100 million by the end of the year.”

“We are not in a position to further donate terminals to Ukraine, or fund the existing terminals for an indefinite period of time,” SpaceX’s director of government sales wrote to the Pentagon in the September letter.

More than seven months into the war, it’s hard to overstate the impact Starlink has had in Ukraine. The government in Kyiv, Ukrainian troops as well and NGOs and civilians have relied on the nimble, compact and easy-to-use units created by SpaceX. It’s not only used for voice and electronic communication but to help fly drones and send back video to correct artillery fire. Enter your email to sign up for the CNN Meanwhile in America Newsletter.

Though Musk has received widespread acclaim and thanks for responding to requests for Starlink service to Ukraine right as the war was starting, in reality, the vast majority of the 20,000 terminals have received full or partial funding from outside sources, including the US government, the UK and Poland, according to the SpaceX letter to the Pentagon.

 

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