WASHINGTON (AP) — The Department of Defense has received a request from SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk to take over funding for its satellite network that provided critical battlefield communications to Ukrainian armed forces during the war with Russia, a US official said. officer.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive issue that has not yet been made public, said the matter has been discussed in meetings and senior leaders are weighing the matter. No decisions have been made.
Musk’s Starlink system of more than 2,200 low-orbit satellites has provided broadband internet to more than 150,000 Ukrainian ground stations. Early Friday, Musk tweeted that it was costing SpaceX $20 million a month to support Ukraine’s communications needs.
In addition to the terminals, he tweeted that the company needs to create, launch, maintain and supplement satellites and ground stations.
CNN was the first to report the Musk request.
The world’s richest man’s request to let the Pentagon take over the hundreds of millions of dollars he says the system costs comes on the heels of a Twitter war between Musk and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. And in overnight tweets, Musk referred to the friction, suggesting it could influence his decision to end his company’s generosity in funding the systems.
In a Twitter exchange last week, Musk argued that in order to achieve peace, Russia should be allowed to keep the Crimean peninsula, which it conquered in 2014. He also said Ukraine should adopt neutral status and drop any bid to join NATO.
Musk also started a Twitter poll asking whether “the will of the people” should decide whether seized regions will remain part of Ukraine or become part of Russia.
In a sarcastic response, Zelenskyy posted a Twitter poll of his own asking “which Elon Musk do you like more?”: “Someone who supports Ukraine” or “Someone who supports Russia.” Musk replied to Zelenskyy: “I still strongly support Ukraine, but am convinced that a massive escalation of the war will cause great damage to Ukraine and possibly the world.”
Andrij Melnyk, the outgoing Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, reacted obscenity to Musk’s original tweet.
Musk’s request that the Pentagon begin to pick up the bill comes as the Space Force and the Pentagon have been looking at how commercial vendors will play a role in national security.
In March, General James Dickinson of the US Space Command Army said it has become essential to have many suppliers that provide the capabilities needed, such as Maxar’s satellite images of stranded Russian convoys, as it frees up limited military satellite resources to focus on other things.
In his tweets, Musk also raised a question that several vendors and the Pentagon are considering as space becomes a more important part of war operations: If a commercial vendor helps the US and is targeted, does the US owe him protection?
“We’ve also had to defend ourselves against cyber-attacks and jamming, which are becoming increasingly difficult,” Musk tweeted.
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