Starlink, the satellite Internet service provider run by Elon Musk, is costing the billionaire a lot of money: so much so that he has considered withdrawing from Ukraine, a country he has supported since the Russian invasion.
Will Starlink, billionaire Elon Musk’s satellite network, be withdrawn from Ukraine soon? The SpaceX boss eventually agreed to continue funding the service after announcing that his company was no longer able to do so, but the billionaire’s positions on the Ukrainian conflict remain ambivalent. the dispatch explains all the bets around this device of “exceptional utility” according to the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian armed forces Valeri Zaloujny.
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A vital network for the Ukrainian army
Starlink is a satellite network that provides subscription internet connection. According to Spaceflightnow, 2,300 satellites were in operation as of May 2022. Ground terminals are used to access this high-performance network provided by these satellites. Partially made available to Ukraine after the start of the conflict, it allows the occupied territories to access the Internet and the Ukrainian army to optimize its intelligence on the ground.
The device thus allows rapid communication in the field, even in occupied territories. It also allows you to deploy drones equipped with cameras and therefore observe the positions of opponents in real time to better hit them or calculate the trajectory that Ukrainian missiles should follow.
According to the founder of the American think tank Silverado Policy Accelerator, Dimitri Alperovitch, “Starlink was absolutely essential as the Russians were targeting Ukrainian communication infrastructures. Without these terminals, Ukrainians would operate in the dark in many places.”
More than 100 cruise missiles attacked energy and communications infrastructure. But with Starlink we quickly restore connection in critical areas. Starlink remains an essential part of the critical infrastructure.
— Mykhailo Fedorov (@FedorovMykhailo) October 12, 2022
Financing already undertaken by several States
But that funding comes at a cost: according to Musk, the 20,000 terminals deployed in the country cost SpaceX $80 million and will reach $100 million by the end of the year. According to our colleagues at CNN, SpaceX has reportedly told the Pentagon that it can no longer continue funding unaided, as the Ukrainian Starlink deployment is expected to cost $400 million over the next 12 months.
The richest man in the world has therefore indicated that he could not continue to finance the costs of infrastructure installed in Ukraine without the help of the US government. But, according to CNN, the Pentagon indicated that 85% of the 20,000 Ukrainian terminals were partially or fully funded by the United States, Poland and several other third countries. The financing of the daily internet connection of these devices (which amounts to 4,500 dollars per device per month) was also supported by 30% by these States.
U-turn for the richest man in the world
Elon Musk’s stance on Ukraine also sparked controversy, after a tweet proposing a peace plan where Russia would keep Crimea and referendums would be held in Donbass. A plan he considers the most likely outcome of the war.
– 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
After the revelations about Starlink funding by the Pentagon, the SpaceX director finally announced that he would continue to pay: “Even if Starlink loses money and other companies recover billions of dollars in taxes, we will continue to fund the Ukrainian government for free.”
Even though Starlink is still losing money and other companies are getting billions of dollars from taxpayers, we will continue to fund the government of Ukraine for free.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 15, 2022
Starlink will therefore continue to be a tool of choice for the Ukrainian army for the time being, while Russia is ramping up its attacks in the free zones of the country such as Kyiv.