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A hot potato: Elon Musk has been praised for supplying Ukraine with SpaceX Starlink terminals to help in the war against Russia, but the world's richest person has warned that his company can't continue its donations or fund the existing system indefinitely and is asking the Pentagon to start paying for the service.
SpaceX has supplied around 25,000 Starlink terminals to Ukraine since the war began. Musk says the donations have cost the company $80 million and will exceed $100 million by the end of the year.
Ukraine vice prime minister Mykhailo Federov has thanked Musk for the deliveries, which have allowed the country's military and civilians to continue communicating and accessing the internet even as Russia targets its comms infrastructure.
But it seems SpaceX's generosity isn't without its limits. According to a CNN report, SpaceX sent a letter to the Pentagon last month warning that it can no longer continue funding the Starlink service. It's estimated that costs could reach almost $380 million over the next 12 months, and it wants the US government to pay for additional terminals and ongoing service costs.
CNN writes that included in the SpaceX documents delivered to the Pentagon was a request sent to Musk from the Ukrainian military's commanding general, General Valerii Zaluzhniy, for almost 8,000 more terminals.
Musk seems to have confirmed the report's accuracy in several posts today. In reply to a tweet showing a list of the largest US defense contractors, he wrote, "Strange that nothing was leaked about our competitors in space launch & communications, Lockheed & Boeing, who get over $60B ..."
Strange that nothing was leaked about our competitors in space launch & communications, Lockheed & Boeing, who get over $60B ...--- Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 14, 2022
Wouldn't be surprised to find this particular individual working there when he retires from DoD. Corruption at its finest.
Replying to another tweet about how much SpaceX is spending to maintain Starlink in Ukraine, Musk wrote: "In addition to terminals, we have to create, launch, maintain & replenish satellites & ground stations & pay telcos for access to Internet via gateways. We've also had to defend against cyberattacks & jamming, which are getting harder. Burn is approaching ~$20M/month."
Musk also echoed the letter's assertion that SpaceX could not fund the existing system while supplying Ukraine with more terminals, which have data usage 100x greater than typical households.
Musk recently incurred the wrath of Ukraine and much of the West for posting a peace plan that involved the country ceding territory to Russia and remaining neutral. Ukraine's outgoing ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, told Musk he should "F**k off." When someone suggested Starlink is looking to end support over this comment, Musk said, "We're just following his recommendation."
We're just following his recommendation 🤷♂️--- Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 14, 2022
Russia has previously threatened Musk over his support of Ukraine and warned that the Starlink satellites could be targeted, but much of the goodwill the billionaire earned from Ukraine was lost due to his peace plan poll.
It was recently reported that Musk posted the poll after a conversation with Vladimir Putin in which the Russian president warned he would use a nuclear weapon if Ukraine tried to retake Crimea. Musk denies this, claiming he last met with Putin 18 months ago.