Ukraine says Musk agreed to send 10,000 more Starlink internet antennas
Ukraine has an agreement with Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. reached to receive thousands more Starlink antennas to help counter Russian airstrikes, according to a top government official.
More than 10,000 of the devices, which provide Internet service beamed from satellites, will be sent to Ukraine in the coming months, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov said in an interview in his office in the said downtown Kyiv.
“SpaceX and Musk are quick to respond to problems and help us,” Fedorov said, adding that he had spoken directly with Musk. “Musk has assured us he will continue to support Ukraine. When we had a powerful blackout, I messaged him that day and he responded in a moment and already delivered some steps. He understands the situation.”
A representative for SpaceX did not respond to a message seeking comment.
SpaceX’s satellites are part of the Starlink network, which transmits high-speed Internet service to antennas on Earth.
Starlink played an important early role in the war in Ukraine as Russia’s military focused on destroying communications. Starlink antennas allowed Ukraine’s troops to maintain contact as they repelled Russia’s opening attack. Musk was initially hailed as a hero.
But Musk, SpaceX’s chief executive officer, drew the ire of Ukrainians in October when he tweeted that Kiev should remain neutral – an apparent suggestion that it not join military alliances such as NATO – and cede territory to Russia. in exchange for a peace agreement.
Ukraine has received about 22,000 Starlink antennas since the war began in February, Fedorov said.
Although there is no contract yet, the governments of several European Union countries are ready to share payment, he said, declining to identify them publicly. “As of now, all financial issues have been resolved,” he said, adding that Ukraine would need to get additional financing in the spring.
“There is no alternative to satellite connections,” Fedorov said.
Ukraine is preparing for a worst-case scenario in which power, heating, water supply and sewage could be cut off for several days or even weeks if Russia succeeds in further destroying the country’s energy infrastructure, Ukrainian authorities said. About half of it is already damaged. Mobile and internet connections can also be significantly limited in that case.
Starlink antennas require electricity but can be powered by generators or power banks.
The country’s contingency plan includes deploying thousands of so-called “points of invincibility,” places where Ukrainians can get uninterrupted access to power, heating and internet, some of which are provided by Starlink antennas.
“We are ready to live without electricity for a month with at least mobile network and text messages available,” Fedorov said. “As for Internet, we have many Starlinks, but the most important point is that we have a nod for another shipment that will be used to stabilize connection for critical situations.”
Ukraine’s technology companies are a major source of electrical demand. Technology ranks second among the country’s industries in terms of generating export revenue. While their sales continued to grow on an annual basis even during the war, according to Fedorov, October was the first month when revenues fell amid blackouts.
The situation has stabilized as the companies have purchased Starlink antennas and generators and are now fulfilling their contracts, he said.
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