In September, SpaceX sent a letter to the Department of Defense, asking the Pentagon to take over paying for the expenses related to Ukraine’s use of its Starlink satellite internet. According to CNN, SpaceX told the department that continuing to provide the Ukranian government with access to Starlink would cost the company over $120 million for the rest of 2022 and almost $400 million over the next 12 months. “We are not in a position to further donate terminals to Ukraine, or fund the existing terminals for an indefinite period of time,” the company wrote. Now, company chief Elon Musk seems to have backtracked on the decision to ask the Pentagon for assistance and wrote on Twitter that SpaceX will “keep funding [the] Ukraine [government] for free” even though Starlink is still losing money.
The hell with it … even though Starlink is still losing money & other companies are getting billions of taxpayer $, we’ll just keep funding Ukraine govt for free
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 15, 2022
Musk confirmed what he said in his tweet to The Financial Times and added that SpaceX will continue funding Ukraine’s access to Starlink’s satellite internet “indefinitely.”
When news about the letter came out, Musk defended his company’s position and clarified that SpaceX is not asking the Pentagon to pay for previous expenses. He explained that SpaceX simply can’t fund the existing system in Ukraine and regularly send thousands of new terminals to replace the ones routinely destroyed by the Russian forces at the same time. Musk added that the “burn” for keeping the Starlink system running in the country is $20 million a month, since it’s had to “defend against cyberattacks and jamming,” as well.
Earlier this month, The Times reported that Ukrainian troops grappled with Starlink outages that led to “catastrophic” loss of communication on the frontline. Musk responded that the piece “falsely claims that Starlink terminals [and] service were paid for, when only a small percentage have been.” Based on SpaceX’s letter that CNN had obtained, though, around 85 percent of the 20,000 terminals in Ukraine at the time were fully or partially funded by the US, the UK, Poland and other outside sources.
The Pentagon confirmed after knowledge of the letter became public that it’s been discussing payments with SpaceX but that it’s also been looking at potential alternatives. Sabrina Singh, the Pentagon’s deputy press secretary, said in a statement: “There’s not just SpaceX, there are other entities that we can certainly partner with when it comes to providing Ukraine with what they need on the battlefield.”
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