WASHINGTON (AFP) – Elon Musk said on Friday his company SpaceX wouldn’t be able to fund the Starlink satellite Internet network over Ukraine indefinitely, amid reports he had asked the United States (US) military to cover the costs.
Starlink, a constellation of over 3,000 small satellites in low Earth orbit, has been vital to Ukraine’s war effort against Russia, with SpaceX donating some 25,000 ground terminals, according to an updated figure given by Musk last week.
In a series of tweets, the world’s richest man appeared to confirm a report by CNN saying he had written to the Pentagon warning that his financial contributions would come to an end, and that they would need to foot the bill. “SpaceX is not asking to recoup past expenses, but also cannot fund the existing system indefinitely *and* send several thousand more terminals that have data usage up to 100X greater than typical households,” he tweeted. “This is unreasonable.”
Musk said the operation has already cost SpaceX USD80 million and is projected to exceed USD100 million by the end of the year. But CNN said SpaceX figures shared with the Pentagon show about 85 per cent of the first 20,000 terminals in Ukraine were paid at least in part by countries like the US, Poland, or other entities. They also paid for about 30 per cent of Internet connectivity.
In overnight replies on Twitter on Friday, Musk expanded on the logistics of the operation.
“In addition to terminals, we have to create, launch, maintain and replenish satellites and ground stations and pay telcos for access to Internet via gateways,” he said. “We’ve also had to defend against cyberattacks & jamming, which are getting harder. Burn is approaching ~USD20M/month.”