The head of SpaceX Elon Musk assures that the costs related to the operations of the Starlinks deployed in Ukraine will cost him 100 million dollars by the end of the year. Numbers questioned by CNN and which may be the mark of yet another change of mindset by the sulphurous Mr. Musk
War is expensive: this is the experience of SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. Blamed in a Financial Times article for service cuts in the Ukrainian war camp, Musk reacted on Twitter by explaining that very few Starlink terminals were paid and that “ this operation cost SpaceX 80 million dollars and this sum is expected to reach 100 million by the end of the year “.
In addition to its reusable space launcher activity, SpaceX has begun deploying a constellation of telecommunications satellites. Called Starlink, this service that allows you to connect to the internet from virtually anywhere on the planet had a major influence on the actions of Ukrainian defenders against Russian invaders. While the Russians destroyed billions of dollars in infrastructure, including those dedicated to communications, the Ukrainians were able to deploy soldiers and command centers in an ultra-fast and ultra-connected way. When Russians rely on outdated or unprotected modes of communication.
The SpaceX chief’s reaction is borne out by documents Musk sent to the Pentagon last month in which he explains that he cannot continue to invest in the military use of Starlink from which the Ukrainian government benefits. Elon Musk urgently requests that the Pentagon take financial responsibility for a service he estimates at $120 million for 2022 and $400 million for the next 12 months.
Starlink changes the battle time
To support its observations, the SpaceX company has an external consultant detailing the costs generated by the Ukrainian operation for the Starlink network. Accounting reports that support the number of terminals, as well as the unit costs for the company or the intensity of use of the satellite network.
To the credit of SpaceX and Mr. Musk, there is no doubt that Starlink’s arrival on the Ukrainian battlefield will go down in the annals of war history. The transit of information being, in fact, like the logistics or morale of the troops, a centerpiece of the art of war, in the face of raw firepower or the level of this or that troop. The speed and flow of information transfer notably enabled video piloting of troops, allowing officers to better guide – and protect – their troops.
In addition to recent dazzling advances, made possible in particular by the great mobility of Ukrainian troops – mobility exacerbated by the ability to rely on such a nomadic communication network – the second proof is the difficulties they encounter when the Starlink is broken down. According to a CNN source, the recent Starlink outages “thent affected all Ukrainian efforts to push back the front line. […] Starlink is the main communication tool that units have on the battlefield “. And when the main tool of wartime communication turns out to be a non-sovereign and uncontrolled service, any cut becomes a nightmare – there is no doubt that we follow this closely at the French War School.
musk is musk
– Redo elections of annexed regions under UN supervision. Russia leaves if that is the will of the people.
– Crimea formally part of Russia, as it has been since 1783 (until Khrushchev’s error).
– Water supply to Crimea assured.
– Ukraine remains neutral.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 3, 2022
Musk’s concern about these cuts and this “awakening” to the associated costs is, once again, in the comments he made on Twitter (which he still hasn’t redeemed!). Contrary to his clearly pro-Ukrainian attitude, Musk surprised the world by publishing a poll proposing new elections in the disputed areas, as well as a definitive annexation of Crimea to Russia.
Furthermore, if SpaceX pays part of the transmission bill, the reported values of US$500/less refer to a professional-type service, while terminals can be satisfied with consumption speeds of US$60/less. Finally, SpaceX didn’t pay for all 25,000 terminals deployed in Ukraine: far from it. According to CNN data, 85% of the terminals were paid for, in whole or in part, by countries friendly to Ukraine. The country’s main support in this area is Poland, which acquired no less than 9,000 terminals.
Perhaps, like the Twitter deal, Musk is trying to detach himself from his initial position as a freedom fighter. This has served him well with China: after his Twitter “referendum” on Ukraine, Musk took a stand in an interview for China’s “reunification” with Taiwan – while Taiwan is a sovereign state. This earned him a sales boom in China, as reported by the Financial Times. Is business business?