Mercurial billionaire Elon Musk recently indicated to the Pentagon that his space exploration firm SpaceX would be unable to continue its funding of satellite internet service for Ukraine on an indefinite basis, prompting the Defense Department to fire back, cryptically stating that the administration is in the process of evaluating its options.
As ABC News reports, the satellite terminals provided by SpaceX since soon after the war began have been a crucial support for the Ukrainian military in its fight against Russia, and there is great concern over what could occur if that service were to cease.
“Indefinite” service uncertain
The outlet cited reporting from CNN suggesting that Musk’s SpaceX had sent a letter to Defense Department officials stating that it was no longer “in a position to further donate terminals to Ukraine, or fund the existing terminals for an indefinite period of time.”
A series of tweets posted by Musk on Friday explained that maintenance and expansion of Starlink capabilities in Ukraine come at a cost to his company that reaches nearly $20 million each month, adding that while “SpaceX is not asking to recoup past expenses,” it “also cannot fund the existing system indefinitely.”
In light of the potentially significant consequences that scenario could pose in the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh was asked to comment on the situation during a Friday press briefing.
“We can confirm the Department received correspondence from SpaceX about the funding of Starlink, their satellite communications product in Ukraine. We remain in communication with SpaceX about this and other topics,” Singh stated.
Singh also seemed to suggest that as far as the administration was concerned, Musk’s services were not the only game in town, adding, “There’s not just SpaceX, there are other entities that we can certainly partner with when it comes to providing Ukraine with what they need on the battlefield.”
“I’m not going to show our hand right now on exactly what those are or who we’re talking to,” Singh pointedly noted.
“The hell with it”
Despite the apparent beef with the Pentagon over the massive outlay from his company, Musk implied on Saturday that SpaceX will indeed carry on in terms of funding the internet connectivity on which the Ukrainian military has come to rely, as NBC News reports.
“The hell with it…even though Starlink is still losing money & other companies are getting billions of taxpayer $, we’ll just keep funding Ukraine govt for free,” Musk posted to Twitter, though whether his comment amounted to a firm commitment to maintain the status quo remained unclear.
Noted entrepreneur and tech investor David Sacks replied to Musk’s declaration by observing, “No good deed goes unpunished,”
Perhaps shedding some light on whether Starlink funding will indeed continue, despite his initial indications to the contrary, Musk replied to Sacks, “Even so, we should still do good deeds.”