SpaceX bans Ukraine from using Starlink to control drones
What happened now? The close relationship between SpaceX and Ukraine could escalate after the company curtailed the country’s ability to use Starlink’s satellite service for offensive military purposes. The move follows reports that Ukraine is using Starlink to control drones.
SpaceX has delivered more than 25,000 Starlink terminals to Ukraine and has maintained them since the start of the war, helping to keep the country’s critical infrastructure and its citizens online as Russia continues its offensive.
But Ukraine is said to have used Starlink in its offensives against the Russian military, including using it to hit enemies with drones, in violation of SpaceX policy.
Speaking at a conference in Washington, DC on Wednesday (via Reuters), SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell said Starlink was never intended to be used as a weapon.
“However, the Ukrainians used it unintentionally and not as part of any agreement,” she said, referring to reports that Starlink was being used to control Ukrainian drones. “There are things we can do to limit their ability to do this. [controlling the drones]she said, “there are things we can do and have already done.”
A year 🇺🇦 of resistance and companies must decide:
-Either they are on the side of 🇺🇦 and the right to freedom, and are not looking for ways to harm.
– Or they are on the side of the Russian Federation and its “rights” to kill and seize territories.#SpaceX (Starlink) and Mrs. #Shotwell select a particular option
— Mi…ailo Po’olyak (@Podolyak_M) February 9, 2023
Shotwell never disclosed what actions SpaceX took to stop Ukraine from using Starlink for military attacks. She stressed that the service could be used for military communications, but was never intended for offensive purposes.
Back in October, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the company couldn’t fund Starlink in Ukraine indefinitely, even though other governments share equipment and maintenance costs. The company estimated that costs could total nearly $380 million over the next 12 months, and it wanted the US government to pay for additional terminals and ongoing maintenance costs.
SpaceX is not asking to reimburse past expenses, but it also cannot fund the existing system indefinitely *and* ship several thousand more terminals that use 100 times more data than typical households. This is unreasonable.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 14, 2022
It was only a few days before Musk backed off and vowed that SpaceX would finance Ukraine “indefinitely” even though the billionaire recently tweeted that any possible course of action he takes on Ukraine would lead to criticism: “Damned if you do it, damned if you don’t” , he wrote.
To hell with it… even though Starlink is still losing money and other companies are getting billions of taxpayer dollars, we will just continue to fund the Ukrainian government for free.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 15, 2022
“SpaceX Starlink has become a link between Ukraine right up to the front line. It will be damned if you refuse,” Musk wrote in a separate tweet. “However, we do not allow the use of Starlink for long-range drone strikes. It’s hell if you don’t break up.”
Russia warned last year that SpaceX satellites could become “legitimate targets.” The country tried to jam Starlink signals in Ukraine, which Musk said led the company to improve the security of the service’s software.
Previously, Musk was involved in a verbal altercation with the former head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, which led to a tweet from the Tesla boss about death under mysterious circumstances.