SpaceX has taken steps to limit Ukraine's use of its satellite internet service Starlink for military purposes. The tech giant has provided thousands of Starlink dishes to Ukraine to help connect people to the internet after Russia closed down local services. However, reports indicate that Kyiv has been using the technology to control drones and target Russian positions, which goes against SpaceX's policies.
Starlink works by connecting to satellites in low-Earth orbit. The first terminals were provided to Ukraine soon after the invasion by Russia. Apart from the terminals sent by SpaceX itself, others were funded by foreign governments. Starlink has become the connectivity backbone of Ukraine, even in the front lines.
Policy and Limitations
SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell confirmed that it is acceptable for the Ukrainian military to use Starlink technology for communication purposes. However, the company's intent was "never to have them use it for offensive purposes." Shotwell also said that SpaceX has taken steps to limit the Ukrainian armed forces' ability to use Starlink in an offensive way, although she did not give further details. There have been outages to the Starlink service in Ukraine late last year, but Shotwell could not answer if these efforts were the cause.
Conflict of Interest
SpaceX founder Elon Musk has acknowledged the dilemma that the company is facing in Ukraine. The billionaire tweeted that "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." He added that "we are not allowing Starlink to be used for long-range drone strikes. This is the damned if you don't part."
In conclusion, Starlink has become an essential tool for staying connected in Ukraine, especially in the front lines. However, the company has taken steps to limit the Ukrainian military's ability to use the technology for offensive purposes. The conflict between Ukraine's right to freedom and Russia's right to seize territories and kill has put SpaceX in a difficult position.
Technomancer is a science and tech enthusiast who enjoys writing about software and AI and other tech topics.