SpaceX says it can no longer afford to provide free Starlink service in Ukraine

After providing around 20,000 Starlink satellite units to Ukraine, SpaceX has warned it cannot continue to provide free service unless the Pentagon chips in.

Image via SpaceX

In a charitable act, Elon Musk’s SpaceX company has been providing Starlink equipment and internet service to the nation of Ukraine for free for a significant part of 2022. This is happening as Ukraine remains embroiled in a intense conflict with Russia. SpaceX supported Ukraine with its services even as Russia destroyed traditional mobile phone and internet infrastructure in the country. However, it seems SpaceX may be unable to foot the bill on free Starlink service in Ukraine for much longer and has asked the US military for assistance in the matter.

Word of SpaceX’s warning on discontinuation of free Starlink service in Ukraine was shared via a report from CNN. According to said report, documents were obtained showing that Elon Musk’s SpaceX company sent a letter to the US Pentagon asking for monetary assistance in its support efforts for Ukraine. It was earlier this year alongside launching vehicle internet support that SpaceX provided around 20,000 Starlink satellite units to Ukraine, along with supporting the nation with free service, which has been a huge boon to the Ukraine military and civilians who have lost communications infrastructure due to the Russian invasion.

Elon Musk tweet explaining reasoning for discontinuation of free Starlink service in Ukraine.
Elon Musk shares that the sheer amount of money Starlink is losing makes its charitable efforts in Ukraine unsustainable.
Source: Twitter

Unfortunately, the cost of continuing to offer Starlink service to the Ukraine region for free is becoming too much for SpaceX. Elon Musk stated that as a communications service, it is extremely difficult to stay afloat.

“Starlink is still losing money! It is insanely difficult for a LEO communications constellation to avoid bankruptcy – that was the fate of every company that tried this before,” Musk said on Twitter. “When asked what the goal of Starlink was at a space conference, I said ‘not go bankrupt’.”

It can also be said that maintaining friendly relations with Ukraine is proving difficult for Musk and SpaceX. CNN's report of discontinued free Starlink service in Ukraine came a few days after a Ukraine ambassador shared contempt for Musk.

That said, the letter being sent to the US Pentagon in September suggests that issues between Musk and the Ukraine ambassador and the discontinuation of Starlink service in Ukraine are likely unrelated. What happens next seems to be in the US military’s ballpark. SpaceX is asking for Pentagon to provide tens of millions of dollars to send further Starlink units too Ukraine and continue service. Time will tell if the US military is willing to help foot that bill.

Senior News Editor

TJ Denzer is a player and writer with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. He found his way to the Shacknews roster in late 2019 and has worked his way to Senior News Editor since. Between news coverage, he also aides notably in livestream projects like the indie game-focused Indie-licious, the Shacknews Stimulus Games, and the Shacknews Dump. You can reach him at and also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.

From The Chatty
    • reply
      October 14, 2022 12:25 PM

      Oh, imagine that.

      Give it to 'em for free. Get 'em hooked. Threaten to pull the rug out unless the government gives you money.

      Almost like they planned it that way!

      Musk could personally bank roll this without blinking an eye and it would have been a nice altruistic gesture. Too bad he's too busy trolling whether he's going to buy Twitter or not.

    • reply
      October 14, 2022 12:32 PM

      Ooops our owner fucked up and now all his money is earmarked for twitter

    • reply
      October 14, 2022 2:54 PM

      I'm pretty sick and tired and fed up with billionaires.

    • reply
      October 14, 2022 9:04 PM

      I'd like to know what the true costs of running the starlink service is. It's obvious that a lot of the cost of a subscription is covering the cost of launching the satellites. But once they are up there, the ongoing operational costs to run the service is surely quite low.

      So even if there is a $4500/month service, you know it doesn't cost SpaceX anywhere near 4500/month to provide that service. So while there might be some potential earning line on their balance sheet based on the number of base stations that will be getting unpaid. Its not going to hurt them to just clear that number.

    • reply
      October 15, 2022 4:17 AM

      Just Musk being childish, petty, thin-skinned, immature, and naive. As usual.

Hello, Meet Lola