Elon Musk explains why SpaceX is asking the Pentagon to pay for Starlink service in Ukraine

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk speaks with Lt. Gen. Richard Clark, Superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy, during the Ira C. Eaker Distinguished Speaker Presentation in the Academy's Arnold Hall on April 7, 2022 in Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Air Force photo by Trevor cokley)

Amidst reports that Elon Musk had asked the Pentagon to pay for Starlink service in Ukraine, the SpaceX CEO explained on Twitter that the private space company cannot really fund the beleaguered country’s satellite internet system “indefinitely.” 

Musk’s remarks on Ukraine’s Starlink service comes after he infuriated many Ukrainians with a proposed peace plan to end Russia’s war in the nation. The plan involved redoing elections of annexed regions under UN supervision and Ukraine maintaining its neutrality. Musk’s suggestions have been widely panned, both by Ukraine officials and ardent supporters of Tesla and SpaceX. 

In a recent tweet, Musk noted that SpaceX is not really looking to recoup its past expenses, but the company also cannot fund the existing system indefinitely. The SpaceX CEO also mentioned that some terminals in Ukraine have up to 100X the data usage of typical Starlink users. 

“SpaceX is not asking to recoup past expenses, but also cannot fund the existing system indefinitely *and* send several thousand more terminals that have data usage up to 100X greater than typical households. This is unreasonable,” Musk wrote. 

Musk also explained that Starlink is still far from profitable, so supporting Ukraine’s satellite internet for free indefinitely is not something that the private space firm can do right now. He added that it’s very difficult for a LEO communications constellation to avoid bankruptcy, so SpaceX has to focus to ensure that Starlink survives. 

Musk shared that so far, SpaceX is closing in on spending about $20 million per month on Ukraine’s Starlink satellite internet service. “In addition to terminals, we have to create, launch, maintain & replenish satellites & ground stations & pay telcos for access to Internet via gateways. We’ve also had to defend against cyberattacks & jamming, which are getting harder. Burn is approaching ~$20M/month,” Musk wrote. 

But while Musk has expressed valid concerns about why SpaceX cannot continue to fund free satellite internet in Ukraine, a later comment on Twitter suggests that the CEO’s decision may partly be fueled by a rather personal reason. When Musk posted his proposed peace plan between Ukraine and Russia, several Ukrainian officials called out the CEO. Some, such as President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, opted for a restrained response. Others took a far bolder approach

Among them was Ukraine’s outgoing ambassador to Germany, Andrij Melnyk. When Musk noted that many would likely die if Ukraine and Russia could not reach a peace deal, Melnyk noted that “The only outcome is that now no Ukrainian will EVER buy your f***ing Tesla crap. So good luck to you, Elon Musk.” In a later comment, the ambassador also noted that “F*ck off is my very diplomatic reply to you, Elon Musk.”

When Melnyk’s previous comments were mentioned on Twitter, Musk responded, “We’re just following his recommendation.”

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Elon Musk explains why SpaceX is asking the Pentagon to pay for Starlink service in Ukraine
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