The Starlink internet is not intended for use with weapons, such as drones, says SpaceX CEO Gwynne Shotwell. “We never intended it to be used for offensive purposes.”
The space company, which is owned by Elon Musk, shipped more than 20,000 Starlink receivers to Ukraine last year. The satellite internet played an important role in keeping parts of the country online after the Russian army shut down several telecom networks immediately after the invasion.
Well for communication
The Ukrainian army also uses Starlink for communication, which Shotwell says is allowed. But controlling drones, which also carry out military attacks, goes against the agreements. “Ukrainians have been using Starlink in ways that were unintentional and not part of an agreement,” Shotwell said.
Hospitals and citizens
Starlink’s deployment in Ukraine, SpaceX said, was for “humanitarian purposes,” such as providing internet to hospitals, banks and civilians affected by the war.
According to Shotwell, the company has taken action, but she did not go into details. “There are things we can do about that and we have done.”
At the end of last year, Ukrainian troops struggled for days with Starlink reception failures. The Russian military also tried to disrupt the satellite signals in the region, but SpaceX said it subsequently adjusted its software.
Zelensky was grateful
Most of the costs of the Starlink equipment sent to Ukraine were paid by SpaceX itself, with a small part being paid for by the US and France.
Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky called Starlink’s deployment to the country last year “very effective” and said he was “very grateful” to SpaceX. “It helped us a lot, at times when cities and towns were blocked and in occupied areas.”
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