Spacex CEO Elon Musk says that his company will “keep funding” the government of Ukraine for free even though Starlink is losing money, noting that it has cost Spacex $80 million so far to provide internet terminals and services to Ukraine. “We’ve also had to defend against cyberattacks and jamming, which are getting harder,” Musk stressed.
We’ll Keep Funding Ukraine for Free, Says Musk
Since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war, Spacex has been shipping Starlink internet terminals and providing services to Ukraine. Musk began supplying Ukraine with Starlink internet terminals in February at the request of the Ukrainian government.
However, Spacex’s director of government sales reportedly sent a letter to the Pentagon in September, stating that the company is not “in a position to donate terminals to Ukraine further, or fund the existing terminals for an indefinite period.” The Pentagon reportedly confirmed they received correspondence from Spacex about funding the Starlink satellite communications product in Ukraine.
Musk tweeted on Oct. 7 explaining that “only a small percentage” of the Starlink terminals and services in Ukraine were paid for. The Spacex chief revealed:
This operation has cost Spacex $80M & will exceed $100M by end of year.
Replying to a question on Twitter about how much Spacex is spending “for maintaining Starlink in Ukraine,” Musk detailed: “In addition to terminals, we have to create, launch, maintain & replenish satellites & ground stations & pay telcos for access to [the] internet via gateways. We’ve also had to defend against cyberattacks and jamming, which are getting harder. Burn is approaching ~$20M/month.”
Musk also shared in a tweet on Oct. 9: “There are ~25k terminals in Ukraine, but each terminal can be used to provide an internet uplink to a cell phone tower, so potentially several thousand people can be served by a single terminal.”
Commenting on Spacex being unable to keep providing free products and services to Ukraine, Twitter user and Tesla investor Sawyer Merritt opined: “Spacex’s request is reasonable. Shouldn’t expect a private sector company to continue to fund this for free forever. Do Lockheed, Boeing, Northrop, etc do their work for free? Spacex was generous in donating what they did and they’ll happily continue to manufacture terminals with government money.”
However, some people slammed Musk over his company’s letter to the Pentagon. Musk then tweeted Saturday: “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.”
It was not immediately clear whether the Tesla CEO was being sarcastic or whether Spacex intends to continue providing free products and services to Ukraine. Responding to a tweet about the move, Musk clarified: “we should still do good deeds.”
Musk explained on October 14 that there is a “big difference” between peace and warfront communications. “Starlink is [the] only comms system still working at warfront — others [are] all dead. Russia is actively trying to kill Starlink. To safeguard, Spacex has diverted massive resources toward defense. Even so, Starlink may still die,” he cautioned. The Spacex boss described in a follow-up tweet: “Internet fiber, phone lines, cell towers & other space-based comms in war areas have been destroyed. Starlink is all that’s left. For now.”
Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s vice prime minister and the minister of digital transformation, tweeted on Oct. 14: “Definitely, Elon Musk is among the world’s top private donors supporting Ukraine. Starlink is an essential element of our critical infrastructure.” He also shared on Oct. 12:
Over 100 cruise missiles attacked energy and communications infrastructure. But with Starlink we quickly restored the connection in critical areas. Starlink continues to be an essential part of critical infrastructure.