Pentagon Gives SpaceX New Ukraine Contract – The Pentagon announced in a statement on Thursday that it has awarded Elon Musk’s SpaceX a new contract to provide Ukraine with more satellite internet terminals. The news comes more than a year after the tech CEO announced that he would provide the terminals to Ukraine to ensure troops and citizens both had vital internet access.
Speaking to CNBC, the Pentagon refused to reveal how much the federal government would pay for the terminals.
“We continue to work with a range of global partners to ensure Ukraine has the satellite and communication capabilities they need. Satellite communications constitute a vital layer in Ukraine’s overall communications network and the department contracts with Starlink for services of this type,” the statement reads.
No additional information about the capabilities, partners, or delivery dates were provided “for operational security reasons.”
In May 2022, after Starlink was deployed in Ukraine, Ukraine’s Digital Minister Mykhailo Fedorov said that more than 150,000 civilians were using the Starlink internet connection on a daily basis.
What Starlink Does
Founded in 2014, Starlink is a satellite internet constellation established by Musk’s SpaceX company. The system uses a network of satellites orbiting the earth to provide internet access to more than 32 countries.
Starlink terminals use portable ground transceivers that simply need a clear and unobstructed view of the sky to connect with the satellites. The terminals may then be used as portable Wi-Fi hotspots, providing high-speed internet to consumers, businesses, and in this case, the Ukrainian military.
Why It Matters to Ukraine
Unlike traditional portable internet terminals which connect to cellular towers, Starlink can be used anywhere in the world, making it a valuable tool for the Ukrainian military amid a war that has seen much of the country’s vital communication infrastructure destroyed.
Starlink’s internet connectivity provides a stable internet connection for users that is capable of more than basic email communication. Users can expect download speeds of between 100 mb/s and 200 mb/s with a low, 20ms latency. With high-speed, low-latency connections, users can make calls that are rarely interrupted by spotty connection or lag problems.
Beyond communication, SpaceX could theoretically help the Ukrainian military control weapons and navigate projectiles. In February 2023, however, SpaceX president and COO Gwynne Shotwell said that the service was “never meant to be weaponized” after it was revealed the company had taken steps to prevent Ukrainian forces from using the service to control drones.
This week’s announcement from the Pentagon, therefore, could potentially indicate that the terminals could be used for more than simple communication and web access purposes.
Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive’s Breaking News Editor. He is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.