SpaceX CEO Elon Musk reversed his decision to stop funding the Starlink terminals sent to Ukraine, saying on Twitter that the company will continue to provide “free” satellite internet service to the government even if it means the company loses money.
“The hell with it,” Musk writes on Twitter. “Even though Starlink is still losing money & other companies are getting billions of taxpayer $, we’ll just keep funding Ukraine govt for free.”
On Friday, a report from CNN revealed that SpaceX asked the government if it can pay for any additional terminals sent to Ukraine, as well as for existing internet services. These expenses could reportedly amount to about $124 million by the end of 2022 and nearly $380 million over the next 12 months. Musk later added on Twitter that Starlink can’t fund services in Ukraine “indefinitely,” noting in another tweet that Starlink’s losing about $20 million a month to maintain its services.
Musk says Starlink has sent about 25,000 terminals to help Ukraine’s war efforts. The service has played an important role in keeping the Ukrainian military and civilians online during the war, as the country continues to suffer blackouts from Russia’s missile strikes, and the risk of cyberattacks remains high.
Earlier this month, The Financial Times reported that Starlink outages have caused “catastrophic” communications failure between troops. Musk disputed the report on Twitter, stating it “falsely claims that Starlink terminals & service were paid for, when only a small percentage have been.” However, CNN reports that the US government, the UK, and Poland provided full or partial funding for the terminals.
Musk came under fire after polling Twitter users whether Ukraine should achieve “peace” with Russia by surrendering Crimea and other annexed regions. This prompted a reply from Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany, Andrij Melnyk, who said “fuck off is my very diplomatic reply.” Ukrainian vice prime minister Mykhailo Fedorov later tweeted that Musk “is among the world’s top private donors supporting Ukraine,” and that “Starlink is an essential element of our critical infrastructure.”
Update October 16th, 8:16AM ET: Updated to add additional context about the funding of Starlink terminals.