SpaceX founder Elon Musk said Monday afternoon that the company’s request for funding from the Pentagon to start paying the bill for satellite internet services for Ukraine had been withdrawn.
Musk announcement on Twitter followed an exclusive CNN report that SpaceX made a request to the Pentagon in September saying they were no longer able to donate critical Starlink terminals or support the expensive companion service “for an indefinite period.” . SpaceX has asked the Pentagon to begin paying for service for current terminals operated by the Ukrainian government as well as funding nearly 8,000 new terminals and services for Ukraine’s military and intelligence services.
After CNN’s report revealed the request and showed in more detail that SpaceX isn’t solely responsible for Ukraine’s Starlink access (in fact, many international efforts funded much of it), Musk said. tweeted on Saturday: “Damn it…even though Starlink is continuing to lose money and other companies are receiving billions of taxpayer dollars, we will continue to fund the Ukrainian government for free.”
Musk’s tweet on Monday went a step further, saying the action was taken to quash the request to the Department of Defense.
CNN asked the Pentagon if SpaceX had withdrawn its request for funding.
Two sources familiar with discussions between SpaceX and the Pentagon told CNN that on Friday, before Musk’s apparent about-face, the Pentagon had in fact agreed to SpaceX’s request to pay the Ukrainian government’s continued service and the commander’s new request. Ukrainian. general.
That funding request was for $124 million for the remainder of 2022. It’s unclear what the final amount or agreed terms were.
“To be precise, 25,300 terminals have been sent to Ukraine, but right now only 10,630 are paying for the service,” Musk said Monday.
SpaceX’s letter to the Pentagon on Sept. 8 said the company paid for about 70% of Ukraine’s endpoint internet service — which is valued at $4,500 a month — but only fully funded about 15% of the 20,000 endpoints. . 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 that the Pentagon hadn’t paid SpaceX anything for Starlink in Ukraine “yet.”
“This is something we are discussing with SpaceX in terms of potential support that could be provided, but at this point the DoD has not paid for SpaceX services with respect to Starlink in Ukraine,” the official said.
Some European countries have expressed support for funding SpaceX’s Starlink in Ukraine, a European official told CNN.
The topic was discussed informally at the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council on Monday, the official said.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said on Saturday that “Ukraine’s internet connectivity is too important to be left in the hands of a single individual.”
“Let’s find a way to form a coalition of allies of Ukraine to pay Starlink, or find an alternative provider. Lithuania is ready to contribute,” he said in a tweet.
Musk has faced considerable criticism for pushing a peace plan that many see as openly pro-Russian, which would include the formal ceding of Crimea to Russia.
On Monday, he continued to push his proposal, saying: “If Russia is faced with the choice of losing Crimea or using nuclear weapons on the battlefield, it will choose the latter.”