When former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, the identical twin of Arizona Democrat senator Mark Kelly, tried to get SpaceX CEO Elon Musk to let Ukraine use SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet service for use by the country’s military, Musk rebuffed the attempt.
Last September, Musk stated, “Starlink is meant for peaceful use only.”
Starlink is meant for peaceful use only
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 17, 2022
On January 31, Musk tweeted, “SpaceX Starlink has become the connectivity backbone of Ukraine all the way up to the front lines. This is the damned if you do part. However, we are not allowing Starlink to be used for long-range drone strikes. This is the damned if you don’t part.” Last week, SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell doubled down in the wake of reports that Ukraine’s military had used Starlink to control drones.
Starlink, which was permitted to be used by Ukraine for broadband internet for hospitals, banks, and families affected by Russia’s invasion, was “never never meant to be weaponized,” Shotwell said, adding, “However, Ukrainians have leveraged it in ways that were unintentional and not part of any agreement. … There are things that we can do to limit their ability to do that. There are things that we can do, and have done.”
That prompted Mykailo Podolyak, senior adviser to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, to respond, “A year of [Ukrainian] resistance & companies have to decide: Either they are on the side of [Ukraine] & the right to freedom, and don’t seek ways to do harm. Or they are on RF’s side & its ‘right’ to kill & seize territories. SpaceX (Starlink) and Mrs Shotwell should choose a specific option.”
A year of 🇺🇦 resistance & companies have to decide:
-Either they are on the side of 🇺🇦 & the right to freedom, and don’t seek ways to do harm.
-Or they are on RF’s side & its "right" to kill & seize territories.#SpaceX (Starlink) & Mrs. #Shotwell should choose a specific option
— Михайло Подоляк (@Podolyak_M) February 9, 2023
But on Saturday, Kelly tweeted at Musk, “Ukraine desperately needs your continued support. Please restore the full functionality of your Starlink satellites. Defense from a genocidal invasion is not an offensive capability. It’s survival. Innocent lives will be lost. You can help. Thank you.”
“You’re smart enough not to swallow media and other propaganda bs,” Musk responded. “Starlink is the communication backbone for Ukraine, especially at the front lines, where almost all other internet connectivity has been destroyed. But we will not enable escalation of conflict that may lead to WW3.”
You’re smart enough not to swallow media & other propaganda bs.
Starlink is the communication backbone of Ukraine, especially at the front lines, where almost all other Internet connectivity has been destroyed.
But we will not enable escalation of conflict that may lead to WW3.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 12, 2023
Last October, Lt. Gen. John Shaw, deputy commander of the U.S. Space Command, stated, “I am certain that my counterpart in Russia, whoever that is, is not very happy with Starlink, as it’s assisting Ukraine. And with commercial imagery, such as Maxar’s products, that are plastering all over the world news the things that are going on, I don’t think they’re very happy about that either. And we know that they’re probably going to take steps to try to stop those commercial services because they run counter to Russia’s national interest.”
Soon after, Konstantin Vorontsov, deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s department for nonproliferation and arms, warned that privately operated satellites were “an extremely dangerous trend that goes beyond the harmless use of outer-space technologies and has become apparent during the latest developments in Ukraine,” and that “quasi-civilian infrastructure may become a legitimate target for retaliation.”