Starlink, a satellite Internet access provider led 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Will Starlink, billionaire Elon Musk’s satellite network, be withdrawn from Ukraine anytime soon? The SpaceX boss finally agreed to continue funding the service after announcing his company was no longer able to do so, but the billionaire’s positions on the Ukrainian conflict remain ambivalent. the dispatch explains to you all the bets surrounding 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 internet connection by subscription. According to Spaceflightnow, 2300 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 for fast communication in the field, even in occupied territories. It also allows deploying drones equipped with cameras and therefore observing opposing positions in real time to better target 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 targeted the Ukrainian communication infrastructures. Without these terminals, the Ukrainians would operate in the dark in many places”.
More than 100 cruise missiles attacked the power and communications infrastructure \ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6. But with Starlink we quickly restore connection in critical areas. Starlink remains an essential part of critical infrastructure.
— Mykhailo Fedorov (@FedorovMykhailo) October 12, 2022
Financing already taken over by several states
But this financing comes at a cost: according to Musk, the 20,000 terminals deployed in the country cost SpaceX US$ 80 million and will reach US$ 100 million by the end of the year. According to our colleagues at CNN, SpaceX reportedly told the Pentagon that it can no longer continue funding without help, as the Starlink deployment in Ukraine is expected to cost $400 million over the next 12 months.
The richest man in the world indicated, therefore, that he could no longer continue to finance the costs of the infrastructure implemented in Ukraine without the help of the American government. But, according to CNN, the Pentagon indicated that 85% of the 20,000 Ukrainian terminals were partially or fully financed by the United States, Poland and several other third countries. The daily financing of the Internet connection for these devices (which amounts to US$4,500 per month per device) was also borne at 30% by these States.
U-turn for the richest man in the world
Elon Musk’s position on Ukraine was also controversial, after a tweet proposing a peace plan in which 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 is formally part of Russia, as it has been since 1783 (until Khrushchev’s mistake).
– Water supply to Crimea secured.
– Ukraine remains neutral.
—Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 3, 2022
After the revelations about the Pentagon’s funding of Starlink, 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.”
To hell with it… 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 remain a tool of choice for the Ukrainian military for the time being, while Russia is ramping up its attacks in the country’s free zones, such as in Kyiv.