The founder of SpaceX returned to the Starlink topic following the controversy of the past few days via a controversial tweet, but one that reassures the Ukrainian military and the people of Kiev with regard to the satellite signal connection.
SpaceX and the Starlink network in Ukraine
In recent days, Elon Musk had become the protagonist of a fuss in American public opinion and Joe Biden‘s government establishment because of his indecision as to whether or not he should still continue to provide Internet connectivity through his own Starlink system (which is headed by Musk’s SpaceX company) by virtue of the fact that other unspecified American companies (but the allusion was blatant to the arms and military technology industry) were receiving windfall funds to finance the war in Ukraine and instead his company was losing money every day in this philanthropic endeavor.
The entrepreneur has now made us used to his tweets, and users know how much of a stir these often cause. The Twitter case is a clear example of this and by the way it has not yet reached a conclusion, but this time Musk’s tweets have really stirred up public opinion in the states even at the governmental level.
Musk had expressed his willingness to stop his service for Zelenski’s cause because through the 25,000 systems of receptive hardware consisting of boxes, cables, outlets and dishes delivered to the Ukrainian government, while generously allowing a connection to military troops and civilians otherwise impossible due to the Russian military’s destruction of the infrastructure in Kiev that allowed them to connect, he is accumulating $10 million in losses per month, all without considering the costs related to the connection.
The expenses SpaceX incurs for the Starlink connection system used in the Eastern European country are enormous and are estimated at $120 million for the current year while rising to $400 million for 2023, without considering that on a monthly basis for this operation the company loses $10 million per month.
The outlays come not only from the material and production costs but also from the costs that result from keeping the satellites themselves in orbit and logistics as the equipment supplied to Ukraine is the latest and most upgraded system in Starlink’s service.
The path to obviating such costs that are drowning SpaceX‘s coffers seemed almost downhill. In the same way that US companies helping militarily such as Lockheed and Boeing regularly receive billions and billions of dollars in grant funding from the Pentagon each year, so too should Musk’s company access this practice precisely by virtue of the fact that its contribution is critical to the success of military operations in Ukraine.
Elon Musk’s project
Elon Musk has backtracked his steps, disentangling himself from the philanthropic gesture he made earlier of providing a connection for free after the Russian attacks in Eastern Europe, and has done so by approaching the US Department of Defense by asking to be funded for the sake of America and SpaceX, which could have avoided the huge losses and maintained the support that the States through Starlink indirectly give to the cause.
The Pentagon’s responses was not long in coming and sent Musk’s demands back to the sender, but the dust had been raised by then and the public, while condemning the bad act of the entrepreneur who first made himself available for a gesture as functional to Ukrainian resistance as it was generous and then recanted by reconsidering the permanence of his service on Ukrainian soil, widely acknowledged that since the support provided by the entrepreneur with the tweeting habit was as important as that provided by the arms lobby, it was unfair that the one should be left to its fate while the other supported by billions in government funding (an estimated 60 billion for the Ukrainian cause alone in one year) each year.
In a tweet the entrepreneur had pointed out:
“The cost of the operation would be 80 million dollars and will exceed 100 million dollars by the end of the year.”
In fact, official company sources mention $120 million.
Highlighting the cash outlays came then the company’s full memo addressed to the US Department of Defense.
The costs taken into account by Elon Musk do not even refer to the total costs that would reach astronomical figures, but to 15% of the cost of the connection terminals and 70% of the connection expenses since the remaining percentages have in truth already been covered.
The total cost of the operation net of what has already been paid and considering the connection costs would amount to $324 million for 2022 and $522 million for 2023.
These figures say a lot about Musk’s gesture even if the lapse in style of demanding a refund from the US government apparatuses while well-founded remains a bad page that stains a generous gesture by the American genius.
In a tweet clearing the air on whether or not service would continue in the Russian-invaded country, Musk tranquilized in his own way (i.e., not without polemically remarking on unequal treatment among American companies) with these words:
“to hell … even though Starlink is still losing money and other companies are getting billions of taxpayer dollars, we will continue to finance the Ukrainian government for free.”
Thus, the service will be maintained, and this is a crucial step for the success and survival of the Ukrainian resistance front that uses Starlink to track the enemy army, communicate and the logistics of its troops so as to coordinate action in the field.