Ukraine reached an agreement with Space Exploration Technologies Corp. by Elon Musk to get thousands more Starlink antennas to help counter Russian airstrikes, according to a top government official.
More than 10,000 of the devices that provide Internet service beamed from satellites will be sent to Ukraine in the coming months, Mykhailo Fedorov, deputy prime minister and minister for digital transformation, said in an interview in his office in downtown Kyiv.
“SpaceX and Musk are quick to react to problems and help us,” Fedorov said, adding that he spoke with Musk directly. “Musk has assured us that he will continue to support Ukraine. When we had a power blackout, I messaged him that day and he instantly reacted and has already taken some steps. He understands the situation.”
A SpaceX representative did not respond to a message seeking comment.
SpaceX’s satellites are part of the Starlink network, which transmits high-speed Internet service to antennas on Earth.
Starlink played an important early role in the war in Ukraine, as Russia’s military focused on destroying communications. Starlink antennas allowed Ukraine’s soldiers to maintain contact as they repelled Russia’s initial attack. Musk was initially hailed as a hero.
But Musk, the SpaceX chief executive, drew the ire of Ukrainians in October when he tweeted that Kyiv should remain neutral – an apparent hint that it should not join military alliances such as NATO – and would have to cede territory to Russia in return for a peace deal.
Fedorov said Ukraine has received about 22,000 Starlink antennas since the war began in February.
Although there is no contract yet, the governments of several European Union countries are willing to share payment, he said, declining to publicly identify them. “From now on, all financial problems are solved,” he said, adding that Ukraine will have to find additional funding in the spring.
“There is no alternative to satellite connections,” said Fedorov.
Ukraine is preparing for a worst-case scenario in which electricity, heating, water supply and sewage could be cut off for several days or even weeks if Russia succeeds in further destroying the country’s energy infrastructure, Ukrainian authorities said. About half of it was already damaged. Mobile and internet connections could also be significantly limited in that case.
Starlink antennas require electricity but can be powered by generators or power banks.
The nation’s eventual plan includes deploying thousands of so-called “points of invincibility,” places where Ukrainians could get uninterrupted access to electricity, heating and internet, some of it provided by Starlink antennas.
“We are ready to live without electricity for a month with at least mobile network and text messages available,” said Fedorov. “As for the internet, we have a lot of Starlinks, but the key point is that we got the nod for another transmission that will be used to stabilize a connection for critical situations.”
Ukraine’s tech companies are a big source of electricity demand. Tech is second among the country’s industries in terms of generating export revenue. While their sales continued to grow annually even during the war, October was the first month that revenues plunged amid blackouts, according to Fedorov.
The situation has stabilized as the companies have bought Starlink antennas and generators, and are now fulfilling their contracts, he said.
Our new weekly Impact Report newsletter examines how ESG news and trends are shaping the roles and responsibilities of today’s executives. Subscribe here.