SpaceX restricts Ukraine’s use of its satellite internet for drones

Elon Musk

SpaceX has admitted to blocking Ukrainian troops from using its satellite technology, POLITICO reports.

The service is most notably used to control drones as Ukraine continues to fight against Russia’s full-scale invasion. 

The U.S. space company, founded by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, has been providing internet to Ukraine since last February through its Starlink satellite system.

The service has been used by the Ukraine military to control drones. 

SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said that there are things the company can do the limit the Ukrainian military’s ability to use the technology for drones. 

Starlink was never meant to be used militarily in the way that it has, Shotwell argued, saying the company didn’t foresee how profoundly – and creatively – Ukrainian forces would rely on the technology.

Shotwell’s admission that SpaceX, which was founded by Elon Musk, has prevented Ukrainian soldiers from fully using the technology confirms the long-standing belief that Musk and the company are uneasy with Ukraine’s military use of Starlink.

Last October, Musk angered Ukrainians, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, for proposing Ukraine just give up efforts to reclaim Crimea and cede control of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. 

Musk tweeted a series of Kremlin talking points and presented them as a peace plan. It raised concerns in both Kyiv and and among Western allies. 

That same month, there were reports that the Starlink signal had been restricted and was not available past the front line as Ukrainian troops tried to advance, essentially hamstringing their efforts to retake territory from the Russians. Those reports of the outages fueled accusations that Musk was kowtowing to Russia.

Later in October, Musk also said he was no longer willing to pay for the Starlink internet terminals in Ukraine, asking the U.S. Department of Defense to take over responsibility instead.

Musk originally received Ukrainian, and global, praise for quickly delivering Starlink capabilities to Ukraine. 

Musk has come in for more direct criticism from Ukrainian troops over the SpaceX chief’s remark.

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