WASHINGTON (HPD) — The U.S. Department of Defense has been asked by SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk to take over the financing of his satellite network, which has provided crucial communications for the Ukrainian military almost since. that started the war with Russia, US officials said Friday.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity so he could comment on a sensitive matter that has not been made public, said the issue has been discussed in meetings and is being weighed by senior officials. No decisions have been made.
In a statement released later, Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said: “We can confirm that the department received correspondence from SpaceX regarding the funding of Starlink, its satellite communications product in Ukraine. We remain in communication with SpaceX on this and other matters.”
During a Pentagon briefing, he declined to provide details about the communications or to say who the correspondence was sent to and when talks with Musk began.
Musk began shipping Starlink satellite dishes to Ukraine just days after the Russian invasion in February. On the 28th of that month, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov tweeted a photo of the first Starlink kits arriving on the back of a truck.
“You’re welcome, with all pleasure,” Musk replied on Twitter.
Musk’s generosity was hailed by the Ukrainians and considered a turning point in war tactics: the Russians could try to cut off Ukrainian ground communications, but they could not control space.
The Starlink system, with more than 2,200 satellites in low orbit, has provided broadband internet to more than 150,000 ground stations in Ukraine. On Friday morning, Musk tweeted that it was costing SpaceX $20 million a month to support Ukraine’s communications needs.
Apart from the terminals, Musk tweeted that the company has to create, launch, maintain and resupply satellites and ground stations.
CNN was the first to report Musk’s request.
The vital role that the Starlink satellite network plays in the defense of Ukraine cannot be underestimated. For example, it has assisted reconnaissance drone operators on the front lines in attacks on crucial Russian assets. A senior military official made it clear Friday that the United States believes the system has been exceptionally effective on the battlefield. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to provide a US assessment of what is happening on the Ukrainian front.
In a tweet posted on Friday, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mikhail Podolyak said that Ukraine will find a solution to keep Starlink working.
“Let’s be honest. Whether we like it or not, Elon Musk helped us survive in the most critical moments of the war. Companies are entitled to their own strategies,” he tweeted. “We expect the company to provide a stable connection until the end of the negotiations.”
In response to several questions during the briefing, Singh said that the Pentagon was working with the Ukrainian Defense Ministry.
“We know there is this demand, and the (satellite communications) capacity… is needed and we want to be able to ensure that there are stable communications for the Ukrainian forces and for Ukraine,” he said.
The request from the world’s richest man for the Pentagon to take over the hundreds of millions of dollars it says it costs to run the system comes after a Twitter war between Musk and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. And in tweets overnight Musk addressed the friction, hinting that it could affect his decision to end his company’s largesse in funding the systems.
Associated Press writer Frank Bajak contributed to this report from Lima.