SpaceX wins Pentagon satellite contract for Ukraine

The US Department of Defense has awarded SpaceX’s Starlink a government contract to provide its satellite service in Ukraine.

The contract is a boon both for SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk and for Ukraine, which has relied on the Starlink satellites for stable internet connectivity since the Russian invasion last spring.

Musk and his space exploration technology company have been providing Starlink internet services at no cost to help with Ukrainian military communications and keep critical infrastructure running in the war-torn country.

Since the war began, Russia has repeatedly tried to interfere and block internet services (including Starlink) throughout regions of the country, affecting Ukrainian citizens as well.

SpaceX has countered those jamming attacks by hardening the service's software, according to the billionaire tech mogul.

Until now, Starlink services in Ukraine have been completely funded through private donations – including a reported $10M in donations from SpaceX – and under a separate contract with the federally independent US Agency for International Development (USAID).

In October, Musk said SpaceX would not be able to fund the $20 million per month cost for Starlink services in Ukraine indefinitely.

The new DoD contract award will allow SpaceX to continue paying for the satellite services there.

Starlink satellite internet service
Starlink satellite internet terminal on the roof of a home in Lviv, Ukraine. January 2023. Image by RossHelen | Shutterstock

USAID, which provides assistance to help stabilize foreign nations and territories in crisis, has provided funding for about 5,000 Starlink terminals out of the 25,000 of them delivered to Ukrainian in 2022.

"We continue to work with a range of global partners to ensure Ukraine has the resilient satellite and communication capabilities they need,” the Pentagon said in a statement released Thursday.

“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 continued.

Pentagon officials said they have not released the terms of the defense contract because of "operational security reasons and due to the critical nature of these systems."

In September, Musk said he had sent a letter to the Pentagon asking to help to fund Starlink services in Ukraine.

Currently, Starlink has a low-Earth orbiting network of more than 4,000 satellites.

Musk has vowed that SpaceX will increase that number to create a constellation of 12,000 satellites by 2027.