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Elon Musk picks fight with US government over Starlink service to Ukraine

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SpaceX CEO Elon Musk keeps changing the worth of Starlink satellite web services in Ukraine in his communications, and in doing so could also be picking a fight with the US Department of Defence.

Mr Musk began shipping Starlink terminals to Ukraine in February, and providing free Web connectivity, connectivity that proved essential to the success of Ukrainian troops within the face of the invading Russian military. SpaceX donated among the terminals, while others have been paid for by the US government and other actors.

But Mr Musk has recently begun saying SpaceX can now not absorb the price of providing the service to Ukraine, and the precise cost to SpaceX keeps changing.

In a 7 October post to the social media site Twitter responding to reporting by the Financial Times, Mr Musk pinned the price to SpaceX of providing Ukraine with web coverage through the top of the yr, using about 25,000 Starlink terminals, at $20m.

But on Friday, Mr Musk tweeted that it was costing SpaceX $20m a month.

That didn’t add as much as satellite industry consultant Tim Farrar, who tweeted as much Friday morning. Mr Farrar suggested that by inflating the price, Mr Musk is just not just including the donated cost of Starling service for every terminal, $250, but in addition the prices of Starlink’s expansion to cover clients in america.

“Elon’s clearly just making things up in the meanwhile,” Farrer wrote within the tweet.

Reporting by CNN, meanwhile, showed that SpaceX has asked the US Department of Defence to pay for Starlink services to Ukraine for the rest of the yr, at an excellent higher price of $124m for the quarter.

The free-floating price quotes are available the midst of Mr Musk publicly threatening to revoke free Starlink services from Ukraine after taking insult to comments made by Ukrainian ambassador to Germany Andrij Melnyk, in response to Mr Musk’s own tweets urging Ukraine and the west to succeed in a peace settlement with Russia.

“There’s at all times a variety of backward and forward between defense contractors and the federal government over contracts, and the way much they’re going to give you the option to charge. It normally doesn’t occur on Twitter,” Mr Farrar told The Independent in an interview. “That is ultimately the issue here: that is all happening on Twitter, and is entangled with all the opposite things which might be occurring with Elon Musk in the meanwhile by way of his commentary on geopolitical issues.”

SpaceX is accustomed to playing loosely with pricing for its Starlink web service generally, Mr Farrar noted, offering initial Starlink service in North America at $99 monthly “Because that feels like a pleasant number to charge people,” he said, and similarly slashing the initial price of a Starlink terminal from $1,000 to $500, “because they thought they might sell more.” That’s common an unusual practice in pricing a commerical web service, he added.

It’s a bit different when attempting to justify costs to the Department of Defence, Mr Farrer said, and if Mr Musk and SpaceX are factoring in the prices of expanding Starlink service outside of Ukraine, and even the prices of developing Starship for Mr Musk’s goal of constructing a Martian city, it could not go over well with the US government.

“‘But we wish the cash to go to Mars,’” Mr Farrar said. “‘Well, that’s not what the DOD is paying you for, really, is it?”

The query in Mr Farrar’s mind is just why Mr Musk appears to be picking a fight with certainly one of SpaceX’s biggest customers, since his rockets fly an awful lot of high cost payload for the Department of Defence.

“It’s surprising he’d pick the DOD for a fight because, realistically, they’ve been, you recognize, certainly one of SpaceX’s biggest backers during the last five-plus years,” Mr Farrar said. At the identical time, he points out, SpaceX within the midst of combative exchanges with the Federal Communications Commission over the FCC’s rejection of the SpaceX bid for services for the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, or RDOS a program to bring broadband web to the actual US, and for licensing of the subsequent generation of Starlink satellite.

“He may find yourself involved in a standoff with among the regulators within the automobile business over self-driving cars, and he could also be involved in standoffs with the Securities and Exchange Commission over his activities in buying Twitter. There’s all these different areas,” Mr Farrar said. “What’s the top game if he gets right into a confrontation with the US government, across multiple fronts?”

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