'Elon’s gonna Elon': Musk wants Pentagon to pay for donated satellite program Ukraine’s military now depends on
With many of Ukraine’s mobile/wireless and internet networks having been destroyed during Russia’s invasion of the country, billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX and its satellite system Starlink have been a valuable means of communication for the Ukrainian military. But on Thursday, October 13, SpaceX indicated that it will no longer pay for Ukrainian forces to use Starlink.
Journalist Jason Jay Smart tweeted that SpaceX’s decision came a few days after a Ukrainian diplomat, Andrij Melnyk, told Musk, the world’s richest man, to “f*** off.” Musk said of Melnyk’s comment and SpaceX’s decision, “We’re just following his recommendation.”
Barbie Latza Nadeau, reporting for the Daily Beast on October 14, explains, “What is being ‘fucked off’ is the bill for the 20,000 Starlink satellite terminals Musk’s company has installed to aid the Ukraine military — and a request from Ukraine for around 9000 more. The donation, Musk tweeted on Friday, has cost SpaceX some $80 million with a forecast of another $20 million by the end of 2022. SpaceX separately predicted that costs would reach nearly $400 million over the next 12 months, according to Politico.”
SpaceX, according to CNN reporter Alex Marquardt, contacted the Pentagon in September about Starlink — voicing concerns about the cost and recommending that the Pentagon pay for the Ukrainian military’s use of the program.
Marquardt, in an October 14 article, reports, “Documents obtained by CNN show that last month, Musk’s SpaceX sent a letter to the Pentagon saying it can no longer continue to fund the Starlink service as it has. 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 $120 million for the rest of the year and could cost close to $400 million for the next 12 months…. Among the SpaceX documents sent to the Pentagon and seen by CNN is a previously unreported direct request made to Musk in July by the Ukrainian military’s commanding general, Gen. Valerii Zaluzhniy, for almost 8000 more Starlink terminals.”
Marquardt adds, “In a separate cover letter to the Pentagon, an outside consultant working for SpaceX wrote, ‘SpaceX faces terribly difficult decisions here. I do not think they have the financial ability to provide any additional terminals or service as requested by General Zaluzhniy.’”
According to Washington Post reporters Isabelle Khurshudyan, Ellen Francis, Kostiantyn Khudov and Dan Lamothe, a “senior U.S. defense official confirmed” to the Post on October 13 “that Musk had privately urged the Pentagon to pay up.”
The journalists explain, “The official said there was no comparable system with such widespread applicability. The bill is likely to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars over the next year, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. The official described it as a scenario in which Musk ‘dangles hope over the heads of millions, then sticks the DoD with the bill for a system no one asked for but now so many depend on.’”
The U.S. Defense Department official told the Post, “Elon’s gonna Elon.”
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