On Friday, Elon Musk stated that SpaceX wouldn’t be able to continue paying Ukraine’s Starlink satellite internet indefinitely, and the US military acknowledged that it was in contact with the billionaire’s company regarding funding for the vital network.
The negotiations take place as Musk is involved in heated public arguments with Ukrainian officials who were offended by his divisive plan to defuse the situation, which includes recognizing Russian sovereignty over Crimea.
According to an updated estimate provided by Musk last week, SpaceX donated approximately 25,000 ground terminals to Starlink, a constellation of more than 3,000 tiny satellites in low Earth orbit, which has been essential to Ukraine’s communications as it fights against Russia’s invasion.
The richest man in the world appeared to confirm in a series of tweets that he had written to the Pentagon with a warning that his financial support would expire and that the military would have to pick up the tab.
He tweeted, “SpaceX is not asking to recoup past spending, but also cannot send several thousand more terminals that have data demand up to 100X more than normal families *and* fund the existing system indefinitely.”
This is irrational
According to Musk, the cost of the operation has already exceeded $80 million for SpaceX and is expected to reach $100 million by the end of the year.
CNN, however, reported that according to SpaceX data supplied with the Pentagon, roughly 85% of the initial 20,000 terminals in Ukraine were paid for, at least in part, by nations like the United States, Poland, or other entities. About 30% of internet connectivity was also covered by these nations.
The US Department of Defense is speaking with Musk about the funding issue, according to Sabrina Singh, the deputy Pentagon press secretary, who made the statement on Friday.
“We can confirm that mail from SpaceX regarding the funding of… their satellite communications product in Ukraine was received by the department. We continue to speak with SpaceX about this and other issues,” according to Singh.
Helped us survive
She had earlier told media that there might be Starlink alternatives, but she would not elaborate.
There are undoubtedly other SATCOM capabilities available. In reference to satellite communications,” Singh stated, I’m not going to reveal exactly what those are or who we’re talking to at this time.
Musk went into more detail on the operation’s logistics in midnight answers on Twitter on Friday.
In addition to terminals, he explained, “we also need to build, launch, operate, and refill satellites and ground stations, as well as pay telecoms for access to the Internet via gateways.
“We’ve also had to protect against increasingly difficult cyberattacks and jamming. Burn is getting close to $20M every month.”
Musk and President Volodymyr Zelensky have been at odds recently after Musk proposed a peace settlement that included holding controversial referendums again in Ukrainian territory that was controlled by Russia, a notion that was embraced by Moscow.
Andriy Melnyk, the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, commented on the situation on Twitter and told Musk to “f*ck off.”
“We’re just following his advise,” Musk wrote in a tweet on Friday that featured the shrug emoji.
Singh said it was a question for SpaceX and declined to clarify whether Musk had opted to halt the Starlink service in reaction to the ambassador’s remark.
While this was going on, The Financial Times claimed that Starlink outages hampered Ukrainian forces’ ability to retake Russian-controlled territory in the country’s east but that things eventually got better.
Mykhaylo Podolyak, a top adviser to the Ukrainian president, acknowledged the significance of Starlink in a tweet on Friday.
Podolyak added that Ukraine “will find a method to keep #Starlink operating,” adding that “like it or not, @elonmusk helped us survive the most important moments of conflict.”