SpaceX’s Starlink secures Pentagon contract to provide satellite services to Ukraine

Elon Musk’s SpaceX satellite communications service Starlink has secured a contract with the Department of Defense to provide satellite services to Ukraine, according to an announcement made by the Pentagon on Thursday. In October, Musk, SpaceX CEO, expressed concerns about the ongoing funding for Starlink in Ukraine, citing the substantial monthly cost of $20 million to maintain the service. This contract provides a financial boost and support for the future of Starlink in Ukraine.

The Pentagon stated that they are actively collaborating with various global partners to ensure that Ukraine has resilient satellite and communication capabilities. 

“Satellite communications constitute a vital layer in Ukraine’s overall communications network and the department contracts with Starlink for services of this type,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

The terms of the contract were not disclosed by the Pentagon, citing operational security as the reason and the critical nature of these systems. 

Starlink in Ukraine battleground 

Starlink has already been utilised by Ukrainian troops for various purposes, including battlefield communications. Since the start of the war in 2022, SpaceX has been providing Starlink internet service to Ukraine and its military through private donations and a separate contract with a US foreign aid agency. Starlink operates a rapidly expanding network of over 4,000 satellites in low Earth orbit.

Russia’s attempts to block services in Ukraine

Russia has made attempts to disrupt and block internet services in Ukraine, including targeting Starlink in the region. However, SpaceX has implemented measures to safeguard the service’s software and counteract these attacks.

Starlink not intended to be used as a weapon: Company’s president

SpaceX has implemented measures to prevent the Ukrainian military from utilizing its Starlink satellite internet service for drone control in the region, as stated by Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president. Speaking at a conference in Washington in February, Shotwell emphasised that Starlink was never intended for weaponisation purposes.

While Starlink has supported Ukraine’s military by providing broadband communications for defence against Russian forces, Shotwell clarified that the unintended and unauthorized use of the service by the Ukrainian military for drone operations was not part of any agreement.

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Reports had emerged suggesting that the Ukrainian military had utilized Starlink for drone control, enabling effective reconnaissance, target acquisition, and airstrikes. In response to these developments, Shotwell acknowledged that SpaceX has taken action to limit the Ukrainian military’s ability to employ Starlink for such purposes.

However, specific details regarding the measures undertaken by SpaceX were not disclosed by Shotwell during a conversation with reporters.

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