SpaceX’s Shotwell shoots at Ukraine, says Starlink internet ‘weaponized’
Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) has taken action to "limit" Starlink satellite internet service being 'weaponized" for military purposes in Ukraine against Russia.
The company's intentions have now been exceeded by the exploitation of the humanitarian service for offensive objectives, U.S. media reported citing SpaceX's chief operating officer (COO) and president, during a summit in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.
Starlink internet was "never meant to be weaponized," Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX's COO, said during the Federal Aviation Administration's Commercial Space Transportation Conference.
"However, Ukrainians have leveraged it in ways that were unintentional and not part of any agreement."
Shotwell didn't go into specifics about how Ukraine armed Starlink, but there have been media reports that the Ukrainian military used the service to arm drones for dropping bombs.
"We know the military is using them for comms, and that's ok," she said. "But our intent was never to have them use it for offensive purposes."
She pointed out that efforts can be taken and have already been made to limit their use of drones for this purpose.
"There are things that we can do to limit their ability to do that," she said, referring to Starlink's use of drones. "There are things that we can do and have done."
Starlink and Ukraine war
Humanitarian goals such as supplying broadband internet to hospitals, banks, and families harmed by Russia's invasion were part of the deal SpaceX and the Ukrainian government entered.
Massive shipments of Starlink terminals were discreetly delivered by SpaceX, enabling Ukrainian troops to communicate by linking them to the almost 4,000 satellites that SpaceX has already placed into low-Earth orbit, as per a Reuters report.
The efforts were supported and financed by the U.S. and France.
After the conference, the media asked if the COO of SpaceX expected the Starlink internet to be used for military offensives when internet devices were being shipped.
Shotwell replied, "we didn't think about it. I didn't think about it. Our Starlink team may have; I don't know. But we learned pretty quickly."
Russia has attempted to block Starlink communications in the past, but SpaceX has retaliated by securing the software used by the service.
Currently, more than 23,000 Starlink ground stations are operational in Ukraine that can connect with the constellation of over 3,200 communication satellites, according to Defence News.
Biomass, which has recently left for final testing before launch in 2024, will be the seventh Earth Explorer programme satellite in orbit.