In September, Elon Musk SpaceX wrote to the Department of Defense, requesting that the Pentagon assume responsibility for the costs associated with Ukraine’s use of its Starlink satellite internet.
CNN reported that SpaceX informed the department that continuing to provide the Ukrainian government with access to Starlink would cost the company more than $120 million for the remainder of 2022 and nearly $400 million over the next year.
“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
Elon Musk confirmed his tweet to The Financial Times, adding that SpaceX will continue to fund Ukraine’s access to Starlink’s satellite internet “indefinitely.”
When the letter became public, Musk defended his company’s position and clarified that SpaceX is not requesting reimbursement for previous expenses.
He explained that SpaceX simply cannot fund the existing system in Ukraine while also sending thousands of new terminals to replace those routinely destroyed by Russian forces.
Musk added that the “burn” for keeping the Starlink system operational in the country is $20 million per month, because it must also “defend against cyberattacks and jamming.”
The Times reported earlier this month that Ukrainian troops were dealing with Starlink outages, which resulted in “catastrophic” loss of communication on the frontlines. Musk responded, claiming that the article “falsely claims that Starlink terminals [and] service were paid for, when only a small percentage of them have been.”
According to a letter obtained by CNN from SpaceX, approximately 85 percent of the 20,000 terminals in Ukraine at the time were fully or partially funded by the United States, the United Kingdom, Poland, and other outside sources.
After the letter became public, the Pentagon confirmed that it has been discussing payments with SpaceX while also considering 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.”