SpaceX is limiting Ukraine’s access to the American aerospace company’s satellite-internet service, Starlink, for military purposes.
Ukraine has used SpaceX as a resource for communication since last February when Russia invaded the nation, declaring war on Ukraine. SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said in a press conference on Wednesday that a decision to limit Ukraine’s use of SpaceX technology had been made due to the country’s misuse of Starlink to guide drones for military purposes.
SpaceX’s Starlink satellite-internet service used by Ukraine for broadband communication, was “never meant to be weaponized,” said Shotwell. “However, Ukrainians have leveraged it in ways that were unintentional and not part of any agreement,”
Shotwell said that Starlink can be used by the Ukrainian military for communications and that the high-speed internet the business offers has also been used to provide humanitarian relief, linking families and hospitals.
“You offer a commercial product to provide connectivity to people, which is helpful in conflict, but you also want to be careful of how they use it,” she said.
The Starlink terms of service state “Starlink is not designed or intended for use with or in offensive or defensive weaponry or other comparable end-uses.”
Mykhailo Podolyak, senior adviser to Ukraine President Volodymr Zelenskyy, said that SpaceX is failing to recognize Ukraine’s need for self-defense.
Podolyak tweeted: “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.”
A year of 🇺🇦 resistance & companies have to decide:— Михайло Подоляк (@Podolyak_M) February 9, 2023
-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
When asked if SpaceX had anticipated Starlink’s use for offensive purposes in Ukraine when deciding to ship terminals into conflict zones, Shotwell said: “We didn’t think about it. I didn’t think about it. Our Starlink team may have, I don’t know. But we learned pretty quickly.”
The Wall Street Journal said last October that Russia had threatened to target and hack into U.S. commercial satellites if they were to aide Ukraine in their war efforts against them. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk had previously tweeted that Russia had been unsuccessful in its attempts at a cyberwar.
According to Reuters, Starlink suffered service outages in Ukraine late last year, for reasons SpaceX did not explain. Asked if those outages were related to SpaceX’s efforts to curb offensive use of Starlink, Shotwell said: “I don’t want to answer it because I’m not sure I know the answer.”