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Why did Elon Musk reject Ukraine's Starlink request? He explains

By | Edited by Aniruddha Dhar
Sep 09, 2023 11:56 AM IST

Elon Musk declined a Ukrainian request to activate Starlink in Crimea's Sevastopol due to offensive military concerns.

Elon Musk has confirmed that he declined a Ukrainian request to activate his Starlink satellite network in Crimea's port city of Sevastopol last year. The purpose of the request was allegedly to support a Ukrainian attack on Russia's fleet in the region. Musk explained that he refused this request because Starlink's terms of service explicitly prohibit its use for offensive military actions.

Elon Musk's Starlink is a satellite constellation comprising thousands of satellites orbiting the Earth.

The comment from the world's richest person comes after, Walter Isaacson's upcoming biography, "Elon Musk," reveals that when Ukrainian explosive-laden submarine drones approached the Russian fleet last year, they lost connectivity and posed no threat, reported CNN. Musk's decision to deactivate Starlink during this incident reportedly stemmed from his fear that Russia might respond to a Ukrainian attack with nuclear weapons, a concern driven by his conversations with senior Russian officials and his apprehensions about a potential "mini-Pearl Harbor" scenario.

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Isaacson's post on a social media platform elaborated that Ukraine mistakenly believed that Starlink coverage extended all the way to Crimea. They approached Musk to enable it for their drone submarine attack on the Russian fleet, a request he denied due to concerns about potentially triggering a major war.

In response to this, Musk, in an X post, said there is a meaningful difference between refusing a request from Ukraine and intentionally altering Starlink to obstruct Ukraine. He said at no point did he or anyone at SpaceX promise coverage over Crimea, and Starlink's terms of service clearly prohibit its use for offensive military purposes. “Our terms of service clearly prohibit Starlink for offensive military action, as we are a civilian system, so they were again asking for something that was expressly prohibited,” he wrote in the social media post on Saturday.

Musk also said SpaceX is developing Starshield for the US government, a system similar to Starlink but smaller in scale and dedicated to civilian use.

The strategic Crimea peninsula has been under Russian control since 2014, with the Black Sea Fleet based in Sevastopol.

What is Starlink?

Starlink is a satellite constellation comprising thousands of satellites orbiting the Earth at an altitude of 550 kilometres.

ALSO READ: Elon Musk's Starlink satellite-based internet now in all seven continents

Starlink advantage over traditional geostationary satellites, which orbit at much higher altitudes, is its ability to provide faster and lower-latency internet services. Starlink claims to offer latency as low as approximately 20 milliseconds, compared to the 600+ milliseconds of traditional satellites.

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