SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said he fears that his rocket company’s Starlink satellite Internet system could be misused in a way that could “lead to WW3.”
Musk raised the alarm after former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly challenged him on Twitter to “support” Ukraine.
Kelly was responding to reports that Starlink would limit access to the war-torn nation’s military amid fears the system was being “weaponized.”
During the early months of the war last year, Musk donated Starlink’s service to Ukraine for free after Russia took out infrastructure to take down the country’s Internet.
Starlink uses to network of satellites to beam its Internet connection down to the ground and can provide access to anywhere in the world, even the most remote parts of the globe.
“Ukraine desperately needs your continued support,” Kelly tweeted Musk.
“Please restore the full functionality of your Starlink satellites.
“Defense from a genocidal invasion is not an offensive capability.
“It’s survival. Innocent lives will be lost,” he wrote.
“You can help. Thank you.”
However, Musk shot back that Kelly was “smart enough not to swallow media & other propaganda bs.”
He stressed that the SpaceX-run internet service remains “the communication backbone of Ukraine, especially at the front lines, where almost all other Internet connectivity has been destroyed.
“But we will not enable escalation of conflict that may lead to WW3,” Musk warned.
You’re smart enough not to swallow media & other propaganda bs.
Starlink is the communication backbone of Ukraine, especially at the front lines, where almost all other Internet connectivity has been destroyed.
But we will not enable escalation of conflict that may lead to WW3.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 12, 2023
Musk also replied to a blogger who stated that he “continues to actively help Ukraine.”
He noted that, despite raising fears, SpaceX had not yet banned Ukraine’s military from using Starlink.
“SpaceX commercial terminals, like other commercial products, are meant for private use, not military, but we have not exercised our right to turn them off,” Musk stressed.
“We’re trying hard to do the right thing, where the ‘right thing’ is an extremely difficult moral question,” he continued.
The exchange followed comments last week by SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell, who said that “Ukrainians have leveraged” Starlink “in ways that were unintentional and not part of any agreement.”
“It was never intended to be weaponized,” she said.
The network of 2,200 low-orbiting satellites has been a lifeline for Ukraine since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion, with invading forces bombing electrical power and telecommunications systems.
But it has also been crucial to Ukraine’s use of battlefield drones and for fighters to locate the enemy and target long-range artillery strikes.
A top aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky, Mykhailo Podolyak, tweeted that SpaceX needs to decide whether it is on the side of Ukraine’s right to freedom or Russia’s “‘right’ to kill & seize territories.”
However, as Musk said, there has been no indication of any interruption to Starlink in Ukraine.
In fact, Starlink’s terms of service document clearly states: “Starlink is not designed or intended for use with or in offensive or defensive weaponry or other comparable end-uses.”