Musk now plans to add a “donate” button to Starlink website.
A few days ago, I noted that SpaceX CEO Elon Musk indicated that his company was officially asking the US Department of Defense to fund the Starlink satellite system donated to Ukraine. The system has helped keep critical internet communications open as the nation battles with Russia.
Musk has now reversed course.
Elon Musk said SpaceX will continue funding its Starlink internet service in Ukraine on Saturday (Oct. 15), backtracking from the company’s push to ask the Pentagon to foot the bill.
The SpaceX CEO and billionaire wrote on Twitter that his spaceflight company will continue to provide Starlink internet service at no cost to Ukraine, which is currently fighting off a Russian invasion, after saying earlier this month that the effort has cost SpaceX $80 million (opens in new tab) to date.
“To 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,” Musk wrote (opens in new tab) on Twitter 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
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 15, 2022
The funding request had been for over $120 million.
Two sources briefed on the discussions between SpaceX and the Pentagon told CNN that as of Friday, before Musk’s apparent about face, the Pentagon had in fact agreed to the request from SpaceX to pay for ongoing service for Ukraine’s government and the new request from Ukraine’s commanding general.
That funding request was for $124 million for the remainder of 2022. It’s unclear what the final amount or terms agreed to were.
“To be precise, 25,300 terminals were sent to Ukraine, but, at present, only 10,630 are paying for service,” Musk said Monday.
The SpaceX letter to the Pentagon on September 8 said the company had paid for around 70% of the internet service of Ukraine’s terminals – which is valued at as much as $4,500 per month – but had fully funded only around 15% of the 20,000 terminals. The rest was paid for by governments like the US, UK and Poland as well as private initiatives.
On Monday, before Musk tweeted, a senior defense official told reporters the Pentagon had not paid SpaceX anything for Starlink in Ukraine “at this time.”
Despite the reversal, the long-term future of Starlink in Ukraine is not quite settled.
Two days ago, Musk said “the hell with it […] we’ll just keep funding Ukraine govt for free,” but as TechCrunch’s Devin Coldewey noted, this is by no means a long-term solution.
Earlier today, Politico reported that U.S. officials were considering funding the service through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, the financing fund mentioned earlier in this story. European Union foreign ministers also discussed the Starlink issue at a meeting today, Politico said.
But whether the Pentagon — which has sent billions to support the war effort in Ukraine, funds that have gone to everything from ammunition to armored vehicles — will persist in picking up the tab now that SpaceX is no longer seeking financing is unclear.
Meanwhile, Musk is going to give those who want Ukraine to have free Starlink to put their money where their mouth is:
SpaceX could get some funding help soon, from a variety of sources. On Sunday (Oct. 16), Ham Serunjogi, the co-founder and CEO of the cross-border payment app Chipper Cash, tweeted(opens in new tab) that he’d be keen to donate money to help provide Starlink service to schools and hospitals in Uganda.
Musk replied(opens in new tab) that SpaceX will add a “donate” option on its Starlink website. And on Tuesday night, he tweeted(opens in new tab) that the company hopes to release something to that effect next week. So folks who want to help fund Starlink service in Ukraine may soon be able to do so with the click of a button.
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.