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Pentagon awards SpaceX with Ukraine contract for Starlink satellite web

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Ukrainian forces arrange Starlink satellite receivers to supply connection for civilians at Independence Square after the withdrawal of the Russian army from Kherson to the eastern bank of Dnieper River, Ukraine on November 13, 2022.

Metin Atkas | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon said Thursday it has agreed to buy Starlink satellite web terminals from Elon Musk’s SpaceX to be used in Ukraine as Kyiv continues to fight off a full-scale Russian invasion.

“We proceed to work with a spread of world partners to make sure Ukraine has the satellite and communication capabilities they need. Satellite communications constitute a significant layer in Ukraine’s overall communications network and the department contracts with Starlink for services of this sort,” the Pentagon said in an announcement to CNBC.

The Pentagon declined to supply additional contract details, including the value, scope and timeline of the delivery.

“For operational security reasons and because of the critical nature of those systems – we don’t have additional information regarding specific capabilities, contracts or partners to supply presently,” the statement added.

Bloomberg first reported the contract on Thursday. SpaceX didn’t immediately reply to CNBC’s request for comment.

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The primary Starlink terminals in Ukraine arrived 4 days after Russian troops poured over the nation’s border in what became the most important air, land and sea assault in Europe since World War II.

Ukraine’s digital minister Mykhailo Fedorov, who had previously asked Musk for the aptitude on Twitter, posted that Starlink was “here” in Ukraine — with a photo showing greater than two dozen boxes at the back of a truck.

Musk said in October that SpaceX would not find a way to proceed funding use of Starlink terminals within the country out of its own coffers “indefinitely,” after a report from CNN said the corporate had asked the Pentagon to cover the associated fee.

Western officials have previously hailed Musk’s decision to equip Ukraine with Starlink web, citing the colossal and indiscriminate Russian shelling on civilian infrastructure that has left large swaths of the country without communications.

Though, in October, Musk reportedly told the Pentagon he would now not finance the Starlink terminals in Ukraine because the country prepared to fight through the tough winter months. The billionaire later offered a reversal.

‘Never intended to be weaponized’

Starlink is SpaceX’s global network of over 4,000 satellites that gives service to greater than 50 countries. The corporate has grown Starlink to greater than 1.5 million customers, and is weekly launching batches of additional satellites to expand the network’s capability. The U.S. has approved a plan to expand to as many as 7,500 satellites in orbit.

SpaceX has steadily expanded Starlink’s product offerings lately, selling services to residential, business, RV, maritime and aviation customers.

Earlier this yr, SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell said the corporate has been “really pleased to find a way to supply Ukraine connectivity and help them of their fight for freedom,” but she emphasized that Starlink “was never intended to be weaponized.”

“Ukrainians have leveraged it in ways in which were unintentional and never a part of any agreement, so we now have to work on that at Starlink,” Shotwell said in February.

Shotwell added that Ukraine using Starlink as a communications system “for the military is nice,” “but our intent was never to have them use it for offensive purposes.”

She specifically noted reports about Ukraine using Starlink “on drones.” Ukrainian soldiers have described using Starlink to attach drones and discover and destroy enemy targets, the Times of London reported in March 2022.

“I’m not going to enter the main points; there are things that we will do to limit their ability to do this … there are things that we will do and have done,” Shotwell said.

SpaceX is a leader in rocket launches, but Starlink is its golden ticket

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