Musk seeks US funds for satellite network

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WASHINGTON –


The Defense Department has gotten a request from SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk to take over funding for his satellite network that has supplied essential battlefield communications for Ukrainian army forces since nearly the start of its struggle with Russia, U.S. officers stated Friday.


The officers, who spoke on situation of anonymity to debate a delicate matter not but made public, stated the problem has been mentioned in conferences and senior leaders are weighing the matter. There have been no choices.


In a press release later Friday, Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh stated, “We can verify the Department obtained correspondence from SpaceX concerning the funding of Starlink, their satellite communications product in Ukraine. We stay in communication with SpaceX about this and different subjects.”


During a Pentagon briefing, she declined to offer any particulars concerning the communication or say to whom the correspondence was despatched and when the communications with Musk started.


Musk started sending Starlink satellite dishes to Ukraine simply days after Russia invaded in February. On Feb. 28, Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov tweeted a photograph of the primary Starlink kits arriving on the again of a truck.


“You are most welcome,” Musk tweeted again.


Musk’s generosity was hailed by Ukrainians and seen as a recreation changer in struggle ways — the Russians may attempt to minimize Ukrainian floor communications nevertheless it couldn’t management house.


The Starlink system of greater than 2,200 low-orbiting satellites has supplied broadband web to greater than 150,000 Ukrainian floor stations. Early Friday, Musk tweeted that it was costing SpaceX $20 million a month to assist Ukraine’s communications wants.


In addition to the terminals, he tweeted that the corporate has to create, launch, keep and replenish satellites and floor stations.


CNN was the primary to report the Musk request.


The Starlink satellite web’s very important function in Ukraine’s protection can’t be overstated. It has, for instance, assisted front-line reconnaissance drone operators in focusing on artillery strikes on key Russian property. A senior army official on Friday made it clear that the U.S. believes the system has confirmed exceptionally efficient on the battlefield. The official spoke on situation of anonymity to offer U.S. evaluation of the Ukrainian battlefield.


In a tweet on Friday, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mikhail Podolyak stated Ukraine will discover a answer to maintain Starlink working.


“Let’s be sincere. Like it or not, @elonmusk helped us survive probably the most crucial moments of struggle. Business has the precise to its personal methods,” he tweeted. “We count on that the corporate will present secure connection until the top of negotiations.”


In response to a number of questions throughout the briefing, Singh stated the Pentagon was working with the Ukrainian Defense Ministry. “We know that there’s this demand, and (satellite communications) functionality … is required and we wish to have the ability to be sure that there are secure communications for the Ukrainian forces and for Ukraine.”


The request from the world’s richest man to have the Pentagon take over the lots of of hundreds of thousands of {dollars} he says the system is costing comes on the heels of a Twitter struggle between Musk and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. And in tweets in a single day Musk referred to the friction, suggesting it could have an effect on his resolution to finish his firm’s largesse in funding the techniques.


In a Twitter alternate final week, Musk argued that to succeed in peace Russia ought to be allowed to maintain the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized in 2014. He additionally stated Ukraine ought to undertake a impartial standing, dropping a bid to hitch NATO.


Musk additionally began a Twitter ballot asking whether or not “the desire of the folks” ought to determine if seized areas stay a part of Ukraine or turn into a part of Russia.


In a sarcastic response, Zelenskyy posted a Twitter ballot of his personal asking “which Elon Musk do you want extra?”: “One who helps Ukraine” or “One who helps Russia.” Musk replied to Zelenskyy that “I nonetheless very a lot assist Ukraine, however am persuaded that large escalation of the struggle will trigger nice hurt to Ukraine and probably the world.”


Andrij Melnyk, the outgoing Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, responded to Musk’s authentic tweet with an obscenity.


It’s not clear how a lot of the price of deploying Starlink satellite uplinks in Ukraine has been lined by U.S. funding. In April, the U.S. Agency for International Development stated it had delivered 5,000 of the terminals. The Pentagon had no response to that query.


Musk’s dedication to spend $44 billion to buy Twitter “has to issue into his resolution that he can now not afford to do that for free,” stated retired Army Maj. Gen. John Ferrari, a non-resident senior fellow on the American Enterprise Institute.


Musk’s request that the Pentagon start to select up the tab comes because the Space Force and Pentagon have been taking a look at how industrial distributors will play a task in nationwide safety. Musk’s risk to withdraw highlights the chance of leaning an excessive amount of on industrial capabilities, Ferrari stated.


“Commercial distributors all the time get to alter their thoughts, ” Ferrari stated, including that the reliance on Starlink to offer communications for Ukraine additionally serves as a reminder that the Pentagon has to increase this service past SpaceX, he stated.


“The authorities wants many distributors for key capabilities, in fact that always means extra money, however it’s an insurance coverage coverage and insurance coverage prices cash,” Ferrari stated.


In March, commander of U.S. Space Command Army Gen. James Dickinson stated that having distributors present wanted capabilities, equivalent to Maxar’s satellite imagery of stalled Russian convoys, has turn into important, as a result of it frees up restricted army satellite property to deal with different issues.


In his tweets, Musk additionally raised a query that numerous distributors and the Pentagon are contemplating as house turns into a extra crucial a part of wartime operations: If a industrial vendor is aiding the U.S. and is focused, does the U.S. owe it safety?


“We’ve additionally needed to defend in opposition to cyberattacks & jamming, that are getting tougher,” Musk tweeted.


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Associated Press author Frank Bajak in Lima, Peru, contributed to this report.

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