SpaceX’s Starlink Wins Pentagon Contract for Satellite Services to Ukraine
The US Department of Defense has awarded a contract to SpaceX’s Starlink to provide satellite-based internet services to Ukraine, which has been facing a military conflict with Russia since last year. The contract will enable Starlink to continue offering its services, which have been vital for keeping civilians connected and providing crucial military communications.
Starlink, which is a project of SpaceX, the space exploration company founded by Elon Musk, has a network of over 4,000 satellites in low-Earth orbit that can deliver high-speed broadband internet to remote areas. Starlink has been providing its services to Ukraine at no cost since the Russian invasion in February 2022, with the help of private donations and a separate contract with the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
However, as the war dragged on, Musk expressed concerns about the financial sustainability of Starlink’s operations in Ukraine, which cost about $20 million per month. He also faced challenges from Russian attempts to jam and interfere with Starlink’s signals, which he countered by hardening the service’s software.
In October 2022, Musk wrote a letter to the Pentagon asking for help to fund Starlink’s services in Ukraine. In December 2022, the Pentagon confirmed that it would provide satellite communications to Ukraine, but did not disclose the details of the contract or the contractor. On Thursday, June 1, 2023, the Pentagon announced that it had selected Starlink as the contractor for providing satellite services to Ukraine.
The Pentagon said that it did not reveal the terms of the contract due to “operational security reasons and due to the critical nature of these systems.” The Pentagon also said that it was working with “a range of global partners” to ensure that Ukraine had “the resilient satellite and communication capabilities they need.”
The contract is a boon for both SpaceX and Ukraine, as it will allow Starlink to continue its humanitarian mission and expand its global presence. Starlink has plans to increase its constellation of satellites to 12,000 by 2027, and offer its services to customers around the world. Starlink is also developing a product called Star-shield, which aims to provide secure and encrypted communications for militaries and governments.