By Mike Stone and Joey Roulette
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – SpaceX’s Starlink, the satellite communications service started by billionaire Elon Musk, now has a Department of Defense contract to buy those satellite services for Ukraine, the Pentagon said on Thursday.
“We continue to work with a range of global partners to ensure Ukraine has the resilient 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 Pentagon said in a statement.
Starlink has been used by Ukrainian troops for a variety of efforts, including battlefield communications.
SpaceX, through private donations and under a separate contract with a U.S. foreign aid agency, has been providing Ukrainians and the country’s military with Starlink internet service, a fast-growing network of more than 4,000 satellites in low Earth orbit, since the beginning of the war in 2022.
The Pentagon contract is a boon for SpaceX after Musk, the company’s CEO, said in October it could not afford to indefinitely fund Starlink in Ukraine, an effort he said cost $20 million a month to maintain.
Russia has tried to cut off and jam internet services in Ukraine, including attempts to block Starlink in the region, though SpaceX has countered those attacks by hardening the service’s software.
The Pentagon did not disclose the terms of the contract, which Bloomberg reported earlier on Thursday, “for operational security reasons and due to the critical nature of these systems.”
(Reporting by Mike Stone and Joey Roulette in Washington; editing by Franklin Paul and Paul Simao)