SpaceX claims to have restricted Starlink usage for Ukrainian military drones

9 February, 01:55 PM
Elon Musk (Photo:REUTERS/Brendan Mcdermid/File Photo)

Elon Musk (Photo:REUTERS/Brendan Mcdermid/File Photo)

SpaceX, the aerospace firm that powers the satellite internet Starlink terminals widely in use across Ukraine, has taken steps to prevent the Ukrainian military from using those terminals to control military drones, Starlink president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell said during a press conference on Feb. 8 in Washington, D.C., the Reuters news agency reported on Feb. 9.

According to Shotwell, Starlink “never meant to be weaponized.”

“However, Ukrainians have leveraged it in ways that were unintentional and not part of any agreement,” Shotwell said.

Later, in a conversation with journalists, she referred to the fact that the Ukrainian military had used the Starlink service to control drones.

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“There are things that we can do to limit their ability to do that,” she said, referring to Starlink’s use with drones.

“There are things that we can do, and have done.”

Shotwell did not specify what measures SpaceX had taken, and it remains unclear to what extent Ukraine uses Starlink for drone control, and what technical measures could be taken by SpaceX in that event.

“We know the military is using them for comms, and that’s ok,” Shotwell said.

“But our intent was never to have them use it for offensive purposes.”

Starlink suffered services outages in Ukraine late last year, for reasons SpaceX did not explain. Shotwell declined to comment on whether the problems were related to the company’s efforts to limit the Ukrainian military’s use of Starlink. When asked, Shotwell responded: “I don’t want to answer it because I’m not sure I know the answer.”

In October of last year, Musk published a series of scandalous posts on Twitter in which he suggested that Ukraine make territorial concessions to Russia, justifying his “peace plan” with Russia’s threat of using nuclear weapons.

Tweets with Musk’s proposal to appease the aggressor caused outrage among Ukrainian and foreign politicians, journalists, and public figures. The Kremlin called the scandalous posts of the billionaire a “positive fact”, and Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev said that “Musk has done well.”

Musk walked back his statements some time later, claiming that he is “still very supportive of Ukraine” but fears “escalation.”

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