SpaceX cannot continue to pay for Starlink’s satellite internet service for Ukraine, a country that is still at war with Russia and to which it had provided tens of thousands of terminals so that the citizens of this country could stay connected to the network.
According to a letter sent from the company’s government sales department dated September 8 and seen by CNN, SpaceX “is not in a position to continue donating terminals to Ukraine or to fund existing terminals for a period of undefined time”.
After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, Russian military forces targeted communications infrastructure to cut off Ukraine. However, Starlink lent around 25,000 terminals, according to data from Elon Musk, CEO of the company, to connect the government, troops, civilians and non-governmental organizations in Ukraine.
The report also notes that SpaceX has asked the US Pentagon to pay for additional terminals requested by Ukraine, in addition to the costs of the ongoing service. A week ago, Musk pointed out that this operation had already cost SpaceX 80 million dollars and it is estimated that the expenses could reach 124 million by the end of the year or almost 389 million dollars for the entire year of operation.
It is worth mentioning that SpaceX has not been the only one to pay the bills for the service, since the documents mention that 85% of the terminals were paid, at least partially, by the US, Polish and British governments, as well as other NGOs.
While SpaceX did not provide a corporate response, Musk spoke on the matter via Twitter, clarifying that SpaceX is not asking to “recoup past expenses, but also cannot fund the existing system indefinitely and ship several thousand more terminals that have data usage up to 100 times higher than typical households.”
He also highlighted that the company is losing 20 million dollars a month in Starlink, since they not only spend on the terminals, but also have other expenses related to the creation, launch and maintenance of satellites, as well as ground stations.
He even highlighted that they also make significant expenses to defend their infrastructure from possible cyber attacks and interference, which have become increasingly complex in the context of war.
Doubts about SpaceX’s ability to finance the use of Starlink in Ukraine arose because there have been reports of internet outages from that country, which have damaged the military’s ability to communicate amid its counteroffensive against Russia. .
This is the second time Musk has clashed with the Ukrainian government in just a few weeks. The first time was when he published a poll suggesting that Ukraine should cede Crime to Russia if the participants voted in favour.
“Fuck you is my very diplomatic response,” the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Andrij Melnyk, replied to that survey. For his part, and after a journalist cited this situation as a trigger for SpaceX no longer paying for Starlink in Ukraine, Musk wrote: “We are simply following your recommendation.”