Starlink has been awarded a Department of Defense contract to provide satellite services for Ukraine, the Pentagon said.
Starlink, the satellite communications company founded by Elon Musk, will now provide satellite services to the Ukrainian military under a new Pentagon contract.
The terminals are expected to be purchased under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which provides for the embattled nation’s long-term security needs, Bloomberg reported.
The US originally announced its plans to fund initiatives to provide satellite communications “terminals and services” to Ukraine last year, but the involvement of Musk’s company has only been revealed today.
“We continue to work with a range of global partners to ensure Ukraine has the resilient satellite and communication capabilities they need. Satellite communications constitute a vital layer in Ukraine’s overall communications network and the department contracts with Starlink for services of this type,” the Department of Defence said in a statement.
Starlink consists of over 3,000 satellites in low-Earth orbit, along with the necessary ground terminals, and its internet service has played a vital role in Ukraine’s defence.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Musk promised to support Ukraine’s internet connectivity through Starlink, providing crucial battlefield communications. However, in October last year, the billionaire made a request to the US Defence Department to take over funding for his satellite network in the country, claiming it was becoming too expensive to maintain.
Musk suggested that his company could no longer continue to fund the service “indefinitely”, which he said costs $20m (£18m) per month to maintain, but changed his mind after receiving considerable backlash.
“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,” Musk tweeted at the time.
The Pentagon has now confirmed that Starlink will obtain government funding for this initiative, but refused to provide further details about how much money SpaceX is getting for its Starlink terminals or how many the Pentagon plans to give to the Ukrainian military.
“For operational security reasons and due to the critical nature of these systems, we do not have additional information regarding specific capabilities, contracts or partners to provide at this time,” the statement said.
The war has greatly damaged Ukraine’s communications network. Since the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014, Ukraine has been forced to reckon with repeated attacks on its telecommunication systems, power grid and airports.
A recent report by the Geneva-based International Telecommunication Union (ITU) stated that the country would need to invest a minimum of $1.79bn (£1.48bn) to restore its telecommunications sector to pre-war levels. It also alleged that Russia had “destroyed completely or seized” networks in parts of the country.
Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.