Musk’s SpaceX Can No Longer Afford Starlink Terminal Costs in Ukraine


Last Updated on October 14, 2022

Elon Musk recently announced that he will be unable to continue funding the Starlink terminal network in war-torn Ukraine. Since last spring, the satellite internet terminals produced by Musk’s SpaceX have provided internet and cell phone coverage throughout much of the nation. The tech mogul will be unable to continue the expensive project — which is likely to cost an additional $400 million over the next year — and has asked the Pentagon to pick up the tab.

To date, nearly 20,000 Starlink satellite units have been donated to Ukraine. In a tweet Friday, Musk stated that the “operation has cost SpaceX $80 million and will exceed $100 million by the end of the year.”

The charitable aid could soon be coming to an end, however, as SpaceX has warned the Pentagon that it will be unable to continue funding the expensive project unless the government kicks in tens-of-millions of dollars.

CNN obtained a letter that Musk’s SpaceX sent to the Pentagon last month stating that the current costs are unsustainable. letter also requested that the Pentagon take over funding for Ukraine’s government and military use of Starlink, which SpaceX claims would cost more than $120 million for the rest of the year and could cost close to $400 million for the next 12 months, CNN reported.

“We are not in a position to further donate terminals to Ukraine, or fund the existing terminals for an indefinite period of time,” SpaceX’s director of government sales wrote to the Pentagon in the September letter.

CNN also obtained a document that detailed a direct request made to Musk in July by the Ukrainian military’s commanding general, General Valerii Zaluzhniy, for almost 8,000 more Starlink terminals.

In a separate letter to the Pentagon, a SpaceX consultant wrote, “SpaceX faces terribly difficult decisions here. I do not think they have the financial ability to provide any additional terminals or service as requested by General Zaluzhniy.”

In asking the Pentagon to pick up the tab, Musk stated that he was merely following the advice of Ukraine’s former ambassador to Germany. Andrij Melnyk, who previously served in that position, told Musk to “f**k off” after the tech mogul floated his ideas for peace in Ukraine. Musk’s proposal would have required Ukrainian concessions — including the relinquishment of Crimea — and was met with intense backlash from both Ukrainians and pro-war western government officials and media outlets.

“We’re just following his recommendation,” Musk said on Friday, responding to a tweet that referenced CNN’s report and Melnyk’s tweet.

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