Source says that SpaceX told the Department of Defense that it may not be able to pay for the service in the future after giving tens of thousands of Starlink terminals to help Ukraine in its war.
In a letter dated September 8, the company’s director of government sales reportedly said that SpaceX “is not in a position to donate more terminals to Ukraine or pay for the existing terminals for an indefinite amount of time.”
During the war with Russia, the terminals have helped Ukraine stay connected. Putin’s army has been attacking Ukraine’s communications infrastructure as part of its invasion, but Starlink’s satellite-based internet access has made it possible for the country’s government, troops, civilians, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to get online and talk. Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, said that there are about 25,000 Starlink terminals in Ukraine as of October 9th.
In a letter sent in September, SpaceX asked the Pentagon to pay for Ukraine’s request for more Starlink terminals and for the ongoing costs of service. It thinks that these could add up to $124 million by the end of the year and almost $380 million for the whole year. Musk has said before that SpaceX has already spent $80 million on the operation.
Even though SpaceX wouldn’t talk to Source, Musk responded to the report on Twitter. “SpaceX isn’t trying to get money back for past costs, but it also can’t keep paying for the current system forever and send several thousand more terminals that use up to 100 times more data than a typical household,” he wrote on Twitter.
In a different post, he said that Starlink is costing SpaceX $20 million a month. “In addition to terminals, we have to build, launch, maintain, and replace satellites and ground stations, and pay telcos for access to the Internet through gateways,” he said. “We have also had to protect ourselves from cyberattacks and jamming, both of which are getting harder.”
The source’s report also explains who has been paying for Ukraine’s Starlink connectivity up until now. It says that around 85 percent of the terminals were at least partially paid for by the American, Polish, and British governments, as well as other groups like NGOs.
Source says that Poland has paid for almost 9,000 terminals and that the US has given nearly 1,700. In April, the Washington Post said that SpaceX was already providing 3,670 terminals. SpaceX has reportedly paid about 70% of the cost for Starlink to connect to the internet.
SpaceX isn’t sure it will be able to pay for the future use of Starlink in Ukraine. This comes at the same time as reports of “catastrophic” internet outages that have made it harder for the Ukrainian military to talk to each other during its recent offensive against Russia.
The Financial Times was the first to say that there were problems, but Source has confirmed that there have been outages. In response to the FT’s report, Musk said that what’s happening on the battlefield is “classified.”
In the past few weeks, Musk has also been criticized for putting up a poll that said Ukraine should give Crimea to Russia and give up other areas that Russia has taken over if the people vote for it. Andrij Melnyk, Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany, tweeted, “Fuck off is my very diplomatic response.”
In a tweet, Elon Musk said, “As the ambassador suggested, we’re just asking the Pentagon to pay the bill.”
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