SpaceX Prevents Ukraine from Using Starlink Terminals to Control Drones

  • Bureau
  • 07:51 AM, February 10, 2023
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SpaceX Prevents Ukraine from Using Starlink Terminals to Control Drones
Representational @via open sources

Elon Musk’s SpaceX confirmed it has taken measures to prevent Ukraine’s military from using Starlink satellite internet service to control drones in the battlefield.

After invading its neighbor on February 24 last year, Russia quickly looked to close down local internet services and to block social media. The first Starlink dishes - or terminals - were provided to Ukraine soon after, in an effort to ensure people stayed connected. They work by connecting to satellites in low-Earth orbit.

Talking about Ukraine’s use of Starlink during a press conference at Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said, “We know that the military uses terminals to communicate, and that’s OK... It was never meant to be weaponized, but the Ukrainians have leveraged it in ways that were unintentional and not part of any agreement.”

“Our intent was never to have them use it for offensive purposes,” she said.

Gwynne said she’d heard about Ukraine using the satellite internet service to control their drones. “There are things that we can do to limit their ability to do that, and have done,” she said, declining to comment on what steps SpaceX exactly took.

Ukraine uses drones to detect Russian positions, direct fire at long distances, and drop bombs. Recently, a Ukrainian combat drone, integrated with a Starlink terminal, was shot down.

SpaceX sent more than 5,000 Starlink satellite internet dishes to Ukraine in the days after Russia’s full-scale invasion last February.

Billionaire Elon Musk and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky had a spat on Twitter in October after Musk asked Twitter users to take a pool on a plan to end Russia's war in Ukraine. In the poll, Musk proposed UN-supervised elections in four occupied regions that Moscow annexed after it held what it called "referendums.”

To this, Zelensky responded with his own poll. “Which @elonmusk do you like more? - one who supports Ukraine, one who supports Russia,” he tweeted.

Musk later wrote a letter to Pentagon officials saying the company cannot continue the expenditure of providing services to the Ukrainians, and asked the Pentagon to fund the system.

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