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Elon Musk ‘donated’ Starlink terminals to Ukraine US taxpayers paid SpaceX milli
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Elon Musk ‘donated’ Starlink terminals to Ukraine US taxpayers paid SpaceX milli 

SpaceX previously claimed the U.S. didn’t give them any money to send Starlink to Ukraine.

Elon Musk

The USAID played a major role in delivering Starlink to Ukraine.
Credit: Hannibal Hanschke-Pool/Getty Images

In the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Elon Musk’s fairly new satellite internet service Starlink had a moment in the spotlight when its billionaire founder pledged to help Ukraine stay digitally connected with the rest of the world.

While Musk and Starlink’s parent company, SpaceX, received adulation from their fans for the gesture, it turns out that the U.S. taxpayers were actually responsible for millions of dollars of Musk’s Starlink “donation.” 

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) paid SpaceX for 1,333 Starlink terminals to send to Ukraine, according to a new report in the Washington Post, At a price of $1,500 per terminal, the government agency spent around $2 million for the hardware. SpaceX also sent an additional 3,667 terminals and delivered service to them.

But USAID also paid around $800,000 in transportation costs to deliver these terminals to Ukraine. In total, U.S. taxpayers paid SpaceX more than $3 million.

It’s a far cry from SpaceX’s original comments on the matter.

“I’m proud that we were able to provide the terminals to folks in Ukraine,” SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said at the Satellite 2022 conference in Washington DC just last month. “I don’t think the U.S. has given us any money to give terminals to the Ukraine.”

In a press release put out by USAID, the agency classified the arrangement that saw 5,000 Starlink terminals sent to Ukraine as a “public-private partnership.”

Space reporter Joey Roulette noticed one interesting thing about USAID’s press release: The agency edited the original version of the statement on its website to remove the $10 million it claimed that SpaceX covered.

Tweet may have been deleted

A USAID spokesperson later revised the claim saying that the Starlink deliveries “were made possible by a range of stakeholders, whose combined contributions valued over $15 million and facilitated the procurement, international flights, on-the-ground transportation, and satellite Internet service of 5,000 Starlink terminals.”

A few questions remain, however. Did USAID get a deal from Starlink? Or did the agency overpay for the terminals? A basic Starlink package costs $499. The premium kit, which comes with the antenna, WiFi router, and tripod, goes for $2,500. Again, the USAID paid $1,500 per terminal. According to the Washington Post, SpaceX did not respond to inquiries about pricing.

This wouldn’t be the first time Elon Musk’s companies received significant funding from the U.S. government. The FCC has previously awarded SpaceX with $886 million in funding in order to improve rural broadband with Starlink. And Tesla has received billions in government funding as well.

As Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine just 6 weeks ago, Ukrainians quickly worried about their ability to communicate with the rest of the world. 

Tweet may have been deleted

“Starlink service is now active in Ukraine,” SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted to the Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine Mykhailo Fedorov on Feb. 26 in response to a personal plea for help. “More terminals en route.”

Tweet may have been deleted

Musk did deliver, although it’s unclear just how much Starlink has actually helped. But we only now know that he did so with lots of help from the U.S. government. And a major assist from the U.S. taxpayer.

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