- SpaceX told the Pentagon it couldn’t fund Starlink in Ukraine and asked it to foot the bill, per CNN.
- SpaceX said costs could reach nearly $400 million over the next year, per a letter seen by CNN.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has asked the Pentagon to fund its Starlink satellite internet service in Ukraine because the company can’t afford it, CNN reported on Thursday.
Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, SpaceX sent thousands of Starlink terminals to Kyiv at the request of the country’s minister for digital transformation Mykhailo Fedorov. Starlink’s high-speed connection has allowed Ukrainian soldiers and some civilians to stay online amid Russian strikes on infrastructure.
In September, SpaceX wrote a letter to the Pentagon, warning that it might have to stop funding Starlink in Ukraine because the company could no longer afford it, according to documents obtained by CNN. In the letter, SpaceX asked the Pentagon to bear the cost of Starlink used by the Ukrainian government and military, per CNN.
Musk’s aerospace manufacturer wrote in the letter that it expected the cost of keeping Starlink running in Ukraine to add up to more than $120 million for the rest of 2022 and nearly $400 million over the next year, CNN reported. This was in line with what Musk tweeted on October 7 in relation to costs for sending Starlink to Ukraine reaching over $100 million by the end of the year.
“We are not in a position to further donate terminals to Ukraine, or fund the existing terminals for an indefinite period of time,” SpaceX’s director of government sales wrote in the letter, cited by CNN.
Around 85% of the 20,000 Starlink terminals that SpaceX has delivered to Ukraine were fully or partially paid for by the US government, Poland, and other countries, according to the letter reported by CNN.
The same countries also picked up the tab for 30% of the internet connectivity, while SpaceX paid for 70%, the letter said, per CNN. This connectivity costs $4,500 per month because SpaceX offered its top service, despite most Ukrainian users requesting the $500-a-month service, SpaceX told the Pentagon in the letter, per CNN.
Meanwhile, the two models of Starlink terminals that SpaceX sent to Ukraine cost $1,500 and $2,500, per the documents seen by CNN. In comparison, the price of Starlink kit on the website is $600.
In response to a Twitter thread that referenced CNN’s article, Musk tweeted: “Starlink is still losing money!”
The billionaire said it was “insanely difficult” for a low-Earth orbit communications constellation to avoid bankruptcy. He added: “When asked what the goal of Starlink was at a space conference, I said ‘not go bankrupt’.”
The news comes after Musk rejected a request from Ukraine to enable the use of Starlink in Russian-occupied Crimea.
SpaceX and the Department of Defense didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment made outside of US operating hours.
SpaceX declined CNN’s requests for comment. A Defense Department spokesman told CNN: “The Department continues to work with industry to explore solutions for Ukraine’s armed forces as they repel Russia’s brutal and unprovoked aggression. We do not have anything else to add at this time.”