As if Elon Musk doesn’t have enough problems with his Twitter purchase and declining shares at Tesla, now the Ukranians are reporting that SpaceX’s Starlink internet service failed to work during a critical point in their battle to push the Russians out of Ukranian territory. This problem has been going on for weeks, but we are hearing about it now.
SpaceX was silent when these reports came out, but some suggested this may have been a feature rather than a bug in the Starlink system to prevent it from being used by Russians.
Mr. Musk later tweeted on this matter, stating:
Bad reporting by [The Financial Times]. This article falsely claims that Starlink terminals & service were paid for, when only a small percentage have been. This operation has cost SpaceX $80M & will exceed $100M by end of year. As for what’s happening on the battlefield, that’s classified.
Sadly, Mr. Musk did not clear the air but rather boasted about his company and attacked the media. But another media story from The Eurasian Times shed more light on the issue. The newspaper reports that Russia may be using its Tirada-2S satellite communications electronic jamming system to interrupt Starlink signals.
I would rather SpaceX is the cause of the problem rather than the Russians, but whatever it is we can only hope the Ukrainians, SpaceX, and Ukraine’s allies have a quick fix. Mr. Musk should received accolades for adding a novel asset to this war, yet his entire Starlink enterprise, and not just his donated equipment, is now at risk.
Update: Elon Musk is now asking the Pentagon to assume the costs of the Ukrainian Starlink program, expected to cost SpaceX about $100 million by the end of the year. Given the ongoing Twitter battle between Elon Musk and the Ukrainians related to Mr. Musk’s proposed peace plan for the region, the Ukrainians should probably be looking for another funding partner rather than continuing to count on the generosity of Mr. Musk.
Further Update: Elon Musk is now backing off on his attempts to seek more funding for Starlink, but as usual he is not very graceful about it. Here is his recent tweet:
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.
Such drama from the wealthiest man in the world.