Elon Musk warned Friday that his rocket business SpaceX’s Starlink internet service in Ukraine, which has enabled the country’s residents and military stay connected during the war with Russia, cannot be funded indefinitely.
Musk’s tweet was in response to a media story that SpaceX had asked the Pentagon to pay for Starlink donations. The businessman has been involved in online spats with Ukrainian politicians over a peace proposal he proposed, which Ukraine claims is overly generous to Russia.
On Friday, a senior defence source told reporters that the US Department of Defense would not clarify whether the ongoing conversations with the company were about payment, but that the Pentagon was “continuing to talk to SpaceX and other firms regarding SATCOM capabilities.”
According to a senior US military official, the Starlink communications platform has proven “exceptionally effective on the battlefield,” allowing Ukrainians to sustain numerous device connections in a combat setting.
According to Starlink, the billionaire who runs Tesla, he pays roughly $20 million each month to maintain satellite services in Ukraine. He recently stated that SpaceX has spent approximately $80 million to allow and support Starlink at that location.
“SpaceX is not requesting reimbursement for past expenses, but it also cannot fund the current system indefinitely *and* send several thousand more terminals with data usage up to 100X that of typical families.” “This is absurd,” Musk commented on Twitter on Friday.
Musk launched Starlink, a satellite broadband service, in Ukraine in late February, following the disruption of internet services caused by Russia’s incursion. Since then, SpaceX has provided it with thousands of terminals.
Starlink has been a critical communications tool for Ukrainian military fighting Russian forces.
On Friday, a Ukrainian president’s advisor stated that Kyiv will find a solution to keep the Starlink internet service operational in Ukraine. Ukraine’s vice prime minister, Mykhailo Fedorov, backed him up on Telegram.
Ukraine announced this week that Starlink services aided in the restoration of crucial electricity and communications infrastructure following more than 100 Russian cruise missile attacks.
Russia describes its engagement in Ukraine as a “special military operation” and claims that civilians are not being targeted.
Musk’s peace plan, in which he advocated that Ukraine permanently give the Crimean region to Russia, that additional referendums be held under UN auspices to determine the fate of Russian-controlled territory, and that Ukraine agree to neutrality, garnered considerable criticism from Ukrainians.
Ukraine has stated that it will never agree to cede land that has been taken by force, and that lawful referendums cannot be held in occupied territory when many people have been killed or forced away.
While incredibly expensive to deploy, satellite technologies such as Starlink can provide internet access to people living in rural or difficult-to-reach places where fibre optic cables and cell towers do not reach. When natural disasters impede communication, the technology can also be a lifeline.