Elon Musk's SpaceX limits Starlink's internet use for drones in Ukraine

Elon Musk’s SpaceX limits Starlink’s internet use for drones in Ukraine


Elon Musk’s SpaceX company has accused Ukraine’s military of using its Starlink internet service to power drones in its ongoing conflict with Russia – and said it has taken steps to restrict its ability to do so.

Speaking before a Federal Aviation Administration conference In Washington on Wednesday, Gwynne Shotwell, chief operating officer of SpaceX, said the company was thrilled to help Ukraine in its “fight for freedom,” but that the Starlink satellite internet service was “never intended to be armed”.

“The Ukrainians exploited it unintentionally and not part of any agreement,” Shotwell told Reuters. reported. “We know that the army uses them to [communications]and that’s fine… but our intention was never to have them used for offensive purposes.

She referenced reports that the Ukrainian military used the Starlink service to control drones, and she spoke obliquely about “things we can do to limit their ability to do that.” It’s unclear how Starlink would prevent the service from being used for drones, and Shotwell did not provide details. “There are things we can do and have done,” she told reporters.

The Ukrainian government and military have yet to comment directly on the matter.

However, adviser to the Ukrainian Interior Ministry Anton Gerashchenko tweeted Thursday that his country felt “gratitude” towards Starlink at the start of the war and credited it with “saving hundreds of thousands of lives”.

“Ukraine does not offend, we liberate,” he wrote. “No neutrality in the struggle between good and evil.”

Ukraine prepares on all fronts for Russia’s next big attack

The Ukrainian army has more and more has come to rely on unmanned aerial weapons such as drones in its nearly year-long war with Russia. It has also relied on Starlink’s services amid internet outages and infrastructure damage, as well as Russian cyberattacks and for wider humanitarian needs.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the European Parliament on February 9, ahead of a special meeting with EU leaders. (Video: Reuters)

Late last year, SpaceX CEO Musk caused a stir by threatening to draw funding for Starlink in Ukraine, saying it was “unreasonable” to continue funding “the existing system indefinitely”. he later reversed his position.

Starlink largely kept Ukraine and its military online during the war, prompting Russia to attempt to jam signals and phone services in combat zones. A Ukrainian commander previously said The Washington Post that “fighting without Starlink service on the front lines is like fighting without a weapon.”

Any satellite cut could cripple the Ukrainian military and give the Kremlin a major advantage.

Although SpaceX has sometimes described the Starlink service in Ukraine as a charitable endeavor, it has in fact not covered the full costs. The post office reported in April that the U.S. government paid SpaceX millions for equipment and transportation costs.

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Last month, Musk writing on Twitter, the social media platform he also owns: “SpaceX Starlink has become the backbone of Ukraine’s connectivity to the front lines. …However, we do not allow Starlink to be used for long-range drone strikes.

Stellar Link provides high-speed, low-latency broadband by relying on a constellation of thousands of highly advanced satellites operating in low orbit around the Earth.

Christian Davenport contributed to this report.

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