- SpaceX has taken measures to restrict Ukrainian military forces from utilizing the Starlink technology.
- The actions of SpaceX, led by Elon Musk, confirm the belief that they are uncomfortable with the military use of Starlink by Ukraine.
- Starlink was initially sent to Ukraine to support communication and connectivity for banks, hospitals, and families.
- The Pentagon and SpaceX have held discussions about a potential deal for military units, but a portion of these talks have ended according to recent statements by Gwynne Shotwell.
Elon Musk, the President of SpaceX, announced that the company has implemented measures to prevent Ukrainian military forces from utilizing the crucial Starlink satellite technology in conjunction with Ukrainian drones, which play a vital role in their ongoing conflict with Russia.
Gwynne Shotwell, President and Chief Operating Officer of SpaceX, informed the press on Wednesday that the company has taken action to restrict the utilization of Starlink technology with Ukrainian drones.
Ukrainian military’s Starlink access restricted by SpaceX
Shotwell emphasized that Starlink was never designed with the intention of being employed for military purposes in the manner it has been utilized. According to her, the company failed to anticipate the extent to which Ukrainian forces would leverage the technology, particularly in such innovative ways.
“It was never intended to be weaponized. However, Ukrainians have leveraged it in ways that were unintentional and not part of any agreement,” Shotwell stated.
Shotwell’s acknowledgement that SpaceX, under the leadership of Elon Musk, has imposed restrictions on Ukrainian military forces utilizing the technology, solidifies the persistent notion that both Musk and the company are uncomfortable with the use of Starlink by Ukrainian armed forces.
In subsequent remarks to the media, Shotwell stressed that the deployment of Starlink units in Ukraine was meant to “keep the banks going, hospitals, keep families connected.”
“We know the military is using them for comms, and that’s OK. But our intent was never to have them use it for offensive purposes,” Shotwell added.
In October of last year, Musk sparked the ire of Ukrainians, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, when he took to Twitter to present a peace proposal that suggested Ukraine abandon their attempts to regain control of Crimea and surrender the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
In the same month, reports emerged that the Starlink signal had been deliberately hindered and was inaccessible beyond the front line, thereby hindering Ukrainian military operations aimed at retaking territory from Russian forces. These reports of signal disruptions fueled accusations that Musk was succumbing to Russian influence.
Ukrainian military forces have highly regarded Starlink as a revolutionary piece of satellite technology that not only facilitates their communication capabilities, but also enhances their ability to target Russian forces with artillery and unmanned aerial vehicles.
Following widespread accolades, both in Ukraine and globally, for Elon Musk and SpaceX for their prompt delivery of Starlink capabilities to Ukraine, CNN obtained exclusive documents revealing that the company was making attempts to persuade the Pentagon to fund the procurement of thousands of terminals and their costly connectivity for Ukraine’s military and intelligence agencies. It has also been disclosed that thousands of units have been surreptitiously acquired by third-party countries for Ukraine’s use.
According to a senior defense official’s statement to CNN, SpaceX had “the gall to look like heroes” while charging so much to others.
Musk responded quickly to that report, saying: “The hell with it…we’ll just keep funding Ukraine govt for free.”
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
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 15, 2022
Despite this, discussions between SpaceX and the Pentagon regarding a potential agreement for military units had reportedly continued, according to sources with knowledge of the talks. However, during her remarks on Wednesday, Shotwell hinted that at least a portion of these conversations had come to a close.
“I was the one that asked the Pentagon to fund, this was not an Elon thing. We stopped interacting with the Pentagon on the existing capability. They are not paying,” Shotwell said.
Shotwell stated that SpaceX had not foreseen Starlink being utilized in Ukraine in the manner it has been, in line with media reports and accounts of the resourcefulness demonstrated by Ukrainian military forces on the front lines.
“Honestly, I don’t even think we thought about it. You know, it could be used that way? We didn’t think about it. I didn’t think about it. Our Starlink team may have, I don’t know. But we’ve learned pretty quickly,” Shotwell added.