SpaceX Contract to Supply Starlink in Ukraine Is Worth $23 Million


(Bloomberg) — The Pentagon revealed that its contract to deploy Elon Musk’s Starlink terminals in Ukraine is worth $23 million, finally putting a dollar figure on a deal that has embroiled one of the world’s richest men in the Russia conflict — sometimes to his own chagrin.

A US official, who asked not to be identified because details of the contract haven’t been previously disclosed, characterized the service as a vital part of the security assistance the US is providing to Ukraine. The contract to supply SpaceX’s Starlink communications terminals runs from June of last year through next month, and the official declined to say if it would be renewed.

The US had refused to disclose the size of the contract after Bloomberg News disclosed the arrangement last year. Asked what’s changed, the official pointed to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Defense Daily, a Washington defense-trade newsletter.

Read More: How Musk’s Starlink Sparked a New Kind of Space Race: QuickTake

US military officials have praised the role that portable Starlink terminals have played in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in keeping the civilian population connected and in providing crucial communications for the country’s military.

Ukraine has received 10,000 Starlink terminals that are providing critical communications infrastructure during the war with Russia, Mykhailo Fedorov, minister of digital transformation, said in May 2022.

The $23 million is miniscule compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. has won in becoming a key partner launching some of the US’s most sensitive national-security satellites. But Musk has voiced ambivalence over Ukraine’s use of the terminals, saying they are meant for private, not military, use. 

In a tweet last year, he said Starlink “is the communication backbone of Ukraine, especially at the front lines, where almost all other Internet connectivity has been destroyed. But we will not enable escalation of conflict that may lead to WW3.”

At one point, Musk threated to cut financial support for Starlink in Ukraine, saying his company couldn’t carry the cost of high-speed broadband internet for the country indefinitely. He also irked the Biden administration in 2022 by offering a peace proposal that would require Ukraine to remain neutral, cede Crimea to Russia and redo elections in areas of Ukraine taken over by Russia. 

(Updates with details of Starlink’s usage in Ukraine.)

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Published: 10 Apr 2024, 02:33 AM IST

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