SpaceX: We Can't Keep Paying for Ukraine Satellites

CNN reports the company wants Pentagon to start picking up the tab for Starlink
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 14, 2022 2:30 PM CDT
SpaceX: We Can't Keep Paying for Ukraine Satellites
Elon Musk speaks on March 9, 2020, in Washington.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Last Friday, Elon Musk laid out on Twitter how much it's cost his SpaceX company this year to donate 20,000 or so Starlink satellite units to Ukraine: roughly $80 million, with projections by Musk that the figure will exceed $100 million by year's end. Now, it looks like the 51-year-old billionaire's firm wants help from the US government in funding the donations of these units, meant to help Ukraine in its communications efforts during the Russian invasion. CNN reports it's seen documents that include a letter sent by SpaceX last month to the Pentagon, in which it was revealed the company won't be able to keep funneling money into the initiative unless the US starts contributing tens of millions of dollars per month.

"We are not in a position to further donate terminals to Ukraine, or fund the existing terminals for an indefinite period of time," a SpaceX rep wrote. The letter requested the Pentagon step in to pick up the tab for the Ukrainian government's and military's use of Starlink. It adds that costs for the rest of the year are expected to run more than $120 million, with a total close to $400 million over the next year. Politico notes the satellite units have been "crucial" in areas of Ukraine where phone and internet services have been knocked out, not only for military communications, but also for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to talk to reporters, and for regular Ukrainian citizens to keep in touch with each other.

"Ukraine knows that its current government and wartime efforts are totally dependent on Starlink," a source tells CNN. "The decision to keep Starlink running or not rests entirely in the hands of one man. That's Elon Musk." An interesting aside, as noted by the SpaceX letter: Although Musk has been getting all the thanks so far for the Starlink donations, "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," reports CNN.

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A Kyiv Post reporter noted Friday that the news of the message to the Pentagon came only days after a Ukrainian diplomat told Musk to "f--- off" for his recently tweeted plan for "peace" in Ukraine, which would allow for Russia to permanently keep Crimea and redo elections in four recently annexed Ukrainian regions, this time under the UN's eye. "We're just following his recommendation," was Musk's reply to the Kyiv Post correspondent, referencing the Ukrainian ambassador who'd hurled the expletive at him. (More Elon Musk stories.)

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