(Photo by Hannibal Hanschke-Pool/Getty Images)
- SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said Starlink was the “connectivity backbone” for Ukraine in the war.
- But SpaceX has banned Starlink from being used in long-range drone strikes, he said.
- He was responding to critical comments by the host of a Russian state TV channel.
Elon Musk on Tuesday said SpaceX’s satellite internet service was the “connectivity backbone” for Ukraine during its war with Russia, although it’s not used for long-range drone strikes.
His comments came in response to Vladimir Solovyov, a host on state-controlled television channel Russia-1, who was critical of Elon Musk.
The host accused Musk of supplying technology and satellites for drone attacks and being “in principle, a war criminal.” A clip was shared on Twitter by Anton Gerashchenko, advisor to Ukraine’s minister of internal affairs.
Solovyov could not be reached for comment by Insider.
In response, Musk tweeted: “SpaceX Starlink has become the connectivity backbone of Ukraine all the way up to the front lines. This is the damned if you do part.”
“However, we are not allowing Starlink to be used for long-range drone strikes. This is the damned if you don’t part,” Musk added, without detailing why SpaceX had banned the use of Starlink for these types of strikes.
Long-range drones are able to fly a further distance than other drones. Ukraine is testing some that have a range of more than 1,000 kilometers and a payload of up to 75 kilograms, the Kyiv Independent reported on January 23.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2021, Musk’s aerospace manufacturer has provided thousands of Starlink internet dishes to Ukraine and its troops.
At the request of Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s vice-prime minister, Musk activated Starlink at the start of the war. By June, SpaceX had delivered 15,000 Starlink terminals to Ukraine, and Musk said in October that figure had jumped to around 25,000.
Operating Starlink in Ukraine has proved to be a challenging endeavor for SpaceX.
Musk had previously accused Moscow of initially trying to hack Starlink. The technology has so far been able to resist the hacking attempts, Musk said at the time.
Secondly, the cost of running Starlink is expected to amount to nearly $400 million in one year, CNN reported in October, citing documents. SpaceX asked the Pentagon to fund Starlink in Ukraine because the company couldn’t afford it, per the report.
SpaceX on Tuesday announced it successfully launched 49 Starlink satellites into orbit on a Falcon 9 rocket.
Musk did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.