Published by Sputnik News, 9 February 2023
MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Elon Musk’s space company SpaceX has taken steps to prevent Ukraine’s armed forces from using the Starlink satellite constellation for controlling and targeting drones as the technology was “never intended to be weaponized,” Gwynne Shotwell, the president and chief operating officer of SpaceX, said on Wednesday.
“We were really pleased to be able to provide Ukraine connectivity, and help them in their … fight for freedom. It was never intended to be weaponized, however,” Shotwell reportedly told the 25th Annual FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference in Washington.
The president did not elaborate on what exact use the Ukrainian military made of Starlink to “weaponize” the satellite constellation. However, The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said earlier that it was forming companies of drone operators equipped with Starlink satellite communications, drones, and ammunition to target Russian forces.
“The Ukrainians have leveraged it in ways that were unintentional and not part of any agreement. So you know, we have to work on that [with] Starlink. You offer a commercial product by connectivity to people which is helpful in conflict, but you also want to be careful of how they use it… On the other hand, they’re trying to fight for their country, so I understand it. The thing is, it’s not what was intended,” Shotwell said.
Starlink has reportedly provided Ukraine with an estimated 22,000 devices since the start of Russia’s special military operation in February of last year.
In December, US media reported citing Ukrainian defense official that over 10,000 Starlink antennas were going to be delivered to Ukraine in the coming months and that EU countries were going to help Ukraine pay for the Starlink services.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk said earlier in 2022 that he considered pulling the plug on his donation of Starlink services to Ukraine because it was becoming too expensive to maintain. However, Musk then decided to continue providing Starlink services to Ukraine.
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