SpaceX was paid by US government to send some Starlink terminals to Ukraine despite claiming it wasn’t

The US federal government purchased more than 1,330 terminals from SpaceX to send to Ukraine at a cost of $3 million

Adam Smith
Wednesday 05 October 2022 03:40 BST
SpaceX's Crew-5 arrives at Kennedy Space Center in Florida ahead of upcoming launch

The United States government is paying SpaceX to send some Starlink internet terminals to Ukraine despite the company saying that it did not think the government had paid any money to it.

Elon Musk had sent terminals to Ukraine in order to help keep the country online as it resisted the invasion attempt by Russia. “Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals en route”, Mr Musk tweeted on 26 February.

At the time, this appeared to be a charitable act. “I’m proud that we were able to provide the terminals to folks in Ukraine,” SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said last month. “I don’t think the US has given us any money to give terminals to the Ukraine.”

Now, the Washington Post reports that the US federal government purchased more than 1,330 terminals from SpaceX to send to Ukraine. SpaceX itself donated 3,670 terminals. The terminals would come with three months of “unlimited data”.

The agency initially said it was a “private sector donation valued at roughly $10 million,” but that figure has reportedly been removed from the release and now states that the US government “has delivered 5,000 Starlink Terminals” to Ukraine “through a public-private partnership” with SpaceX.

The government agreed to purchase closer to 1,500 standard Starlink terminals for $1,500 apiece and pay $800,000 for transportation costs. This cost the US taxpayer over $3 million. Commercial Starlink terminals are priced at $600 per terminal, plus $110 per month for the internet service.

A USAID spokesperson told the Post in a statement that the “delivery of Starlink terminals were made possible by a range of stakeholders, whose combined contributions valued over $15 million and facilitated the procurement, international flights, ground transportation, and satellite Internet service of 5,000 Starlink terminals.”

SpaceX did not respond to requests for comment from the Washington Post or The Independent request for comment before time of publication.

Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s vice prime minister, thanked Elon Musk for his assistance in a tweet last month. “Received the second shipment of Starlink stations! (Elon Musk) keeps his word! Thank you for supporting Ukraine and peace in the entire world!” he wrote.

It is now unclear how many Starlink terminals in total have been donated by SpaceX, and how many are from foreign governments.

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