Elon Musk's SpaceX has been generous in providing free Starlink satellite internet terminals for Ukraine's military to boost communication channels as the war enters its eighth month.
Musk recently tweeted the Ukrainian "operation has cost SpaceX $80 million and will exceed $100 million by the end of the year."
Bad reporting by FT. This article falsely claims that Starlink terminals & service were paid for, when only a small percentage have been.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 7, 2022
This operation has cost SpaceX $80M & will exceed $100M by end of year.
As for what’s happening on the battlefield, that’s classified.
But those charitable donations of more than 20,000 Starlink terminals (and counting...) have just come to an abrupt end. CNN obtained a new letter that SpaceX sent the Pentagon, warning about the need for funding to maintain the service in the war-torn country, which costs upwards of $20 million per month (and most of it has been footed by SpaceX).
In addition to terminals, we have to create, launch, maintain & replenish satellites & ground stations & pay telcos for access to Internet via gateways.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 14, 2022
We’ve also had to defend against cyberattacks & jamming, which are getting harder.
Burn is approaching ~$20M/month.
The letter continued with the need for the Pentagon to take over Starlink's expenses. In the next 12 months, Starlink forecasted the service would cost upwards of $400 million.
"We are not in a position to further donate terminals to Ukraine, or fund the existing terminals for an indefinite period of time," SpaceX's director of government sales wrote in the letter.
Musk on Friday confirmed the letter as he responded to a Kyiv Post journalist on Twitter, saying he only followed the advice of a Ukrainian diplomat who told him to "F*** off."
We’re just following his recommendation 🤷♂️— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 14, 2022
Musk also said: "Starlink is still losing money ... goal is "not to go bankrupt."
Also, Starlink is still losing money! It is insanely difficult for a LEO communications constellation to avoid bankruptcy – that was the fate of every company that tried this before.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 14, 2022
When asked what the goal of Starlink was at a space conference, I said “not go bankrupt”.
The letter comes after reports of widespread Starlink outages across Ukraine. The Financial Times reported that Ukrainian troops had experienced issues with their terminals.
CNN said, "sources familiar with the outages said they suddenly affected the entire frontline as it stood on September 30." Starlink has been the primary communication link on the battlefield since Russia bombed the country's infrastructure.
SpaceX's request for funding or it would stop providing free access comes after Musk tweeteed about a controversial peace plan.
This is highly likely to be the outcome in the end – just a question of how many die before then— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 3, 2022
Starlink is essential to the Ukrainian military, and one would suspect that the Pentagon would pick up the tab if US' proxy war against Russia wants to be successful.