SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that the company will continue to fund the Starlink Internet service in war-torn Ukraine and that he has withdrawn the request for funding to the Pentagon.
Making an official announcement on Twitter, Musk said, “SpaceX has already withdrawn its request for funding.”
Earlier, CNN reported that Space X had made a request to the US Department of Defense Pentagon in September as the rocket company was no longer able to donate its critical Starlink terminals or support the expensive accompanying service “for an indefinite period of time.”
SpaceX asked the Pentagon to start paying for the service for the current terminals operated by the Ukrainian government as well as fund almost 8,000 new terminals and services for Ukraine’s military and intelligence services.
Earlier this week, SpaceX warned the Pentagon that it may stop funding the service in Ukraine unless the US military kicks in tens of millions of dollars per month, according to documents obtained by CNN.
The letter also requested that the Pentagon take over funding for Ukraine’s government and military use of Starlink, which SpaceX claims would cost more than USD 120 million for the rest of the year and could cost close to USD 400 million for the next 12 months. The report elicited a torrent of tweets from social media users both defending and criticizing the move.
Since they first started arriving in Ukraine last spring, the Starlink satellite internet terminals made by Musk’s SpaceX have allowed Ukraine’s military to fight and stay connected even as cellular phone and internet networks have been destroyed in its war with Russia, reported CNN.
Musk on Friday had doubled down on SpaceX’s request to the Pentagon in a series of tweets, reported CNN.
“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. This is unreasonable,” read one post from Musk’s verified account.
SpaceX’s suggestion that it would stop funding Starlink also came amid rising concern in Ukraine over Musk’s allegiance. Musk recently tweeted a controversial peace plan that would have Ukraine give up Crimea and control the eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
After Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy raised the question of who Musk sides with, he responded that he “still very much support[s] Ukraine” but fears “massive escalation.”