Elon musk spacex deployed its Starlink satellite internet service in Ukraine in February to assist with critical on-the-ground communication as Ukraine engages in a bloody war with Russia that has resulted in the destruction of networking infrastructure. The company now claims that it can no longer afford to pay for Starlink services in Ukraine and is looking to offload the costs to the US government.
Musk revealed on Twitter that the company has already spent more than $80 million, and that the cost of maintaining 20,000 Starlink terminals in Ukraine will exceed $100 million by the end of 2022. According to documents obtained by CNN, SpaceX has asked the US military to pump millions of dollars into the company each month to help it avoid shutting down the Starlink internet infrastructure in the war-torn country.
According to SpaceX, the costs could reach $400 million within the next year, as the company stated in a letter to the Pentagon that it cannot “fund the existing terminals indefinitely.” Interestingly, the US and other diplomatic allies reportedly paid (in part or in full) for roughly 85% of the 20,000 units currently operational in the country, and they also pay 30% of the internet bills.
High usage, expensive maintenance
The costs of maintaining Starlink infrastructure go beyond simply beaming internet from satellites in low-Earth orbit. According to Musk, data usage by civilians and military personnel in Ukraine is “up to 100X greater than typical households.” Musk explained in another tweet the reasoning behind the high monthly expenses, which are approaching $20 million, by saying that SpaceX “also had to defend against cyberattacks & jamming, which are getting harder.”
Musk’s response has elicited mixed reactions, with some viewing the request for financial assistance from the US government as reasonable, while others criticized the billionaire’s savior mentality just months after being hailed as a hero for Ukraine. As funding becomes a real issue, Reuters reports that Ukraine’s President is looking for “a solution to keep the Starlink internet service operational in Ukraine.”
The world’s richest man, who claims to be in contact with high-ranking Ukrainian officials, is said to have assured them that Starlink will remain operational in the country.
The funding revelations surfaced online days after Musk received widespread criticism for posing a series of questions about the Ukraine-Russia conflict on Twitter.