Musk's SpaceX wins Pentagon contract to deploy Starlink in Ukraine

Details of the contract remain undisclosed but Musk's SpaceX is not footing the bill.
Ameya Paleja
An artilleryman installing a Starlink terminal in Ukraine
An artilleryman installing a Starlink terminal in Ukraine

Ukrainian Navy 

The Pentagon is paying for Starlink, the satellite-based internet services being provided in Ukraine, following the Russian invasion in February last year, a Bloomberg report said. This puts to rest Musk's concerns about the millions spent by his company SpaceX to keep the services running in the country, something he has been very vocal about.

Last year, when the Russian aggression broke Ukraine's internet and communications infrastructure, Musk took the lead in restoring them with Starlink terminals. Interesting Engineering has previously reported that more than 150,000 Ukrainians could connect to the internet daily, and Musk's move had 'destroyed' the Russian information campaign in the region.

However, as the combat drew longer, Musk's patience began running out, and the humanitarian goals were overshadowed by the costs involved.

Who pays for Starlink in Ukraine?

In October last year, Musk publicly expressed concern about the money it was taking to keep the services open in the country and even threatened to stop the services in the region.

The next day, however, Musk flipped his stance and tweeted,

It wasn't clear, at that time, what made Musk change his mind, but Interesting Engineering reported that the SpaceX CEO was seeking $2,500 a month for each terminal. It now appears that his wishes may have come true. By Musk's account, there are over 25,000 terminals in Ukraine.

In December, the Department of Defense confirmed that the U.S. would provide satellite communications in the war-torn nation but had not confirmed that Elon Musk's company would get the contract. The Pentagon has not revealed any details of how many terminals they are funding or how many of these will be provided to the Ukrainian military.

The latter has become a bone of contention between SpaceX and Ukraine after the satellite services were also allegedly used for offensive operations. According to an Ars Technica report, SpaceX has begun geofencing its services and does not allow using its terminals over Russian-occupied territories inside Ukraine, over water, or when the terminal is moving faster than 62 miles (100 km) an hour.

Interestingly though, Starlink is also looking to serve the communications needs of militaries around the globe through its Starshield, offering shielded observations and transferring sensitive mission data.

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