Elon Musk: Starlink Adding Donation Feature after Ukraine Funding Controversy

Tech entrepreneur Elon Musk has announced that SpaceX would be rolling out a feature to let people donate Starlink satellite internet units to places in need.

The move comes after Musk said that the aerospace company could no longer continue to fund Starlink in Ukraine “indefinitely.”

In a Monday post on Twitter, Musk said that SpaceX would add a donate option to Starlink while responding to a message from Ham Serunjogi, co-founder of an African cross-border payments firm.

Serunjogi had offered to donate money to set up Starlink terminals in parts of the continent where internet access is patchy.

“Most excited about its potential to bring internet access to remote & rural areas that lack infrastructure,” wrote Serunjogi, CEO of Chipper Cash.

“@elonmusk I’d be glad to commit $$ to donate Starlink to schools & hospitals in Uganda.”

Musk shared Serunjogi’s post, asking if there are others that want to donate Starlink to places in need.

“Ok, we will add a donate option to Starlink,” Musk said in a follow-up post.

Musk’s message is the latest development around the Starlink funding controversy.

Last week, the SpaceX founder said that the rocket firm couldn’t “indefinitely” fund the internet service in Ukraine, where it has helped Ukrainian forces with battlefield communications.

The Tesla CEO made the remarks in a message that linked to a CNN report claiming SpaceX had asked the Pentagon to take over funding for Ukraine’s government and military use of Starlink.

“SpaceX is not asking to recoup past expenses, but also cannot fund the existing system indefinitely *and* send several thousand more terminals that have data usage up to 100X greater than typical households,” Musk said in the post.

“This is unreasonable.”

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The letter cited by CNN claimed that SpaceX told the Pentagon that it could not continue bearing the cost of supplying the Starlink service in Ukraine.

The cost would reportedly be almost $400 million for the next 12 months.

The rocket company has so far donated around 20,000 Starlink units to Ukraine, with Musk saying in an earlier post on Twitter that the move has cost SpaceX $80 million so far and would climb to over $100 million by the end of the year.

Musk suggested in a message on Saturday that SpaceX would continue to fund the Starlink service to Ukraine, though it was unclear whether the Tesla chief was being sarcastic.

“The hell with it … even though Starlink is still losing money & other companies are getting billions of taxpayer $, we’ll just keep funding Ukraine govt for free,” Musk said.

The SpaceX founder recently suggested a peace plan for the Russia–Ukraine war, including formalizing Russian control over Crimea, which set off a torrent of critical reactions.

One of those to disparage Musk’s proposition was Ukraine’s outgoing Ambassador to Germany, Andrij Melnyk.

“[expletive] off is my very diplomatic reply to you @elonmusk,” Melnyk said in a post on Twitter, condemning Musk’s proposal in harsh terms.

Musk reacted to Melnyk’s remark while responding to a post by Kyiv Post correspondent Jason Smart, who cited Melnyk’s comment, called Starlink a “game changer in the war,” and said SpaceX had asked the Pentagon to start paying for the service.

“We’re just following his recommendation,” Musk said in the post, referring to Melnyk’s expletive-laden remark.

Days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February, Musk announced that the Starlink satellite broadband internet service was being provided to Ukrainians.

While Starlink delivered an information lifeline to darkened swaths of the war-torn country, it also served as a link to enable Ukrainian military drones to target Russian tanks and positions more effectively.

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By Nick R. Hamilton

Nick has a broad background in journalism, business, and technology. He covers news on cryptocurrency, traditional assets, and economic markets.

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