The SpaceX company no longer has the funds to continue funding the Starlink internet network in Ukraine, its boss Elon Musk warned on Friday, appealing to the US government to take over.
Since the start of the war in Ukraine, SpaceX has provided thousands of terminals there, which provide an Internet connection through a constellation of satellites that form the Starlink network.
About 25,000 terminals have been deployed in the country to date, according to Elon Musk.
According to the SpaceX boss, the operation has already cost the company $80 million, and the bill is expected to reach $100 million by the end of the year.
On Friday, he warned that the space agency “cannot continue to fund the existing system indefinitely and send thousands of additional terminals (…). This is not fair.”
According to CNN, SpaceX sent a letter to the Pentagon last month indicating it could no longer afford the cost of service in Ukraine.
The company, according to CNN, asked the US Department of Defense to take over funding for the use of Starlink by the Ukrainian government and its military, the cost of which was estimated at $400 million for the next 12 months.
The Starlink network has helped maintain internet coverage in areas of Ukraine affected by the Russian military. By June, about 15% of Ukraine’s existing Internet infrastructure had been destroyed or damaged, authorities said.
“Starlink is the only communication system that continues to work at the front, all the others are dead,” Elon Musk tweeted Friday night.
“Russia is actively trying to kill Starlink. For its protection, SpaceX has diverted massive resources to defense,” he added.
The billionaire warned that despite these resources earmarked for the defense of Starlink, the system “could very well disappear”.
According to the British daily Financial Times, Ukrainian forces may have suffered Starlink service cuts on the frontline, which would have slowed their counteroffensive before the situation improved.
“As far as we know, SpaceX has not interrupted its service to Ukrainian civilian government agencies and critical infrastructure operators,” a spokesman for the US Agency for International Development (USAID) said on Friday evening.
Ukrainian telecom operators have also been hit by several cyber attacks.
Elon Musk assures that, with the exception of a “small percentage”, all the costs of installing and maintaining Starlink terminals in Ukraine have been borne by SpaceX.
The USAID spokesman said Friday that the agency had bought more than 1,500 terminals from SpaceX in April to deliver them to Ukraine, then 86 new terminals in July for authorities in the Lviv region.