Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov announced several European Union countries have agreed to contribute funding toward Starlink terminals, which SpaceX’s CEO, Elon Musk said in October they could not provide indefinitely.
Starlink is a satellite project that connects thousands of small satellites in low Earth orbit to ground receivers, or terminals, to broadcast high-speed internet connections.
In October, information surfaced that Ukraine and SpaceX, the creator of Starlink, did not have a concrete arrangement for the country to pay for the Starlink terminals. Ukraine initially received more than 20,000 Starlink antennas, and earlier this year Musk requested the Starlinks sent to Ukraine be funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.
SpaceX reported it was losing roughly $20 million per month, and the company said in the letter obtained by CNN, “We are not in a position to further donate terminals to Ukraine, or fund the existing terminals for an indefinite period of time.” However, Musk appeared to change that decision, writing on Twitter, “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.”
Ukraine has managed to overcome the financial hurdle with the help of other EU countries, but Fedorov has not disclosed which countries are contributing toward funding.
“We are ready to live without electricity for a month with at least mobile network and text messages being available,” Fedorov told Bloomberg, seemingly referencing Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. “Regarding the internet, we have a lot of Starlinks, but the key point is we have got a nod for another shipment that will be used to stabilize connection for critical situations,” he said.
The new funding has alleviated some worries in Ukraine, and Fedorov told the outlet, “As of now all financial issues have been resolved.” He added that there is no contract in place, meaning Ukraine will need to source additional funding by spring 2023.
Since the start of Russia’s invasion in February, Ukraine has received 22,000 Starlink antennas according to Fedorov, and they have been instrumental in countering attacks. Fedorov said Starlink’s support was the product of a direct request to Musk on February 24 to rapidly restore communications that had been lost after Russian air attacks.
“SpaceX and Musk quickly react to problems and help us,” Fedorov told Bloomberg. “Musk assured us he will continue to support Ukraine. When we had a powerful blackout, I messaged him on that day and he momentarily reacted and has already delivered some steps. He understands the situation.”