"The hell with it..." Elon Musk now says SpaceX will continue to fund Ukraine coverage
In a spectacular u-turn, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said his space company will continue to fund its Starlink internet service over Ukraine amid the ongoing conflict following Russia's invasion.
The announcement came just a day after Musk said SpaceX could no longer afford to keep footing the bill for extended coverage for Ukrainian troops and civilians using the service.
"The hell with it... Even though Starlink is still losing money & other companies are getting billions of taxpayer $, we'll just keep funding Ukraine govt for free," Musk tweeted on Saturday, October 15.
Elon Musk explains call for Pentagon funding
Starlink has proved to be crucial for Ukraine's military as well as for allowing civilians to stay in contact over the last few months. Ukraine's government has said the service has made up for infrastructure losses incurred at the beginning of Russia's invasion.
Last week, reports emerged in U.S. media outlets that Musk, the world's richest man, had asked the Pentagon to fund the Starlink program over Ukraine, stating that SpaceX could not afford to keep the service online in the long term. Then, on Friday, he tweeted that "SpaceX is not asking to recoup past expenses, but also cannot fund the existing system indefinitely".
Last week, Musk also denied that he had blocked Starlink coverage over Crimea over nuclear war fears. He also denied that he has spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin about the situation in Ukraine. "I have spoken to Putin only once and that was about 18 months ago. The subject matter was space," he wrote.
How much does Starlink coverage over Ukraine cost SpaceX?
Musk says maintaining Starlink coverage over Ukraine costs $20 million per month and he recently also stated that SpaceX has so far spent $80 million to keep Ukraine online.
In addition to terminals, we have to create, launch, maintain & replenish satellites & ground stations & pay telcos for access to Internet via gateways. null— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) ) October 14, 2022
"In addition to terminals, we have to create, launch, maintain & replenish satellites & ground stations," Musk explained on Twitter. "We've also had to defend against cyberattacks & jamming, which are getting harder."
Musk like Marmite in Ukraine
Musk had recently angered Ukraine officials by suggesting the country should cede Crimea — which was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014 — to Russia and that referendums over newly-annexed eastern Ukrainian territories should be carried out again under UN supervision.
Ukraine's ambassador to Germany, Andrij Melnyk, replied to this suggestion on Twitter by telling Musk to "f*ck off". In a response to a post on Friday highlighting Melnyk's response, Musk wrote, we're just following his recommendation."
Ukraine's vice-Prime Minister, Mykhailo Fedorov, who originally requested Starlink coverage on Twitter back in February, meanwhile, tried to de-escalate the situation. He wrote on the social media platform that Musk "is among the world's top private donors supporting Ukraine", adding that "Starlink is an essential element of our critical infrastructure."