SpaceX President Says Ukraine Has ‘Weaponized’ Starlink

The president of SpaceX stated today that the usage of the Starlink broadband system for tactical communications by the Ukrainian military has gone beyond the limits of the company’s objective in offering the service.

“It was never intended to be weaponized,” Gwynne Shotwell said at the Federal Aviation Administration’s Commercial Space Transportation Conference in Washington, DC.

“The Ukrainians have leveraged it in ways that were unintentional and not part of any agreement.”

Although Ukraine’s use of the satellite internet capacity for battlefield connectivity and coordinating strikes has been extensively documented, Shotwell did not go into depth about how Ukraine has weaponized Starlink in its war with Russia.

“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,” she said. “They’re trying to fight for their country, so I understand it.. it’s just not what was intended.

More than 23,000 Starlink ground stations operate in Ukraine, connecting the country to a constellation of more than 3,200 communication satellites. Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, announced in October that the company would no longer fund Ukraine’s usage of Starlink. He later changed his mind and is now in talks with the US Department of Defense about future support for the initiative.

Starshield, a new business unit with a national security focus that SpaceX unveiled in December, aims to improve existing launch and satellite communications offerings while providing new features like Earth observation.

While US adversaries or space debris could pose problems for Starlink satellites in orbit, Shotwell thinks the constellation’s size offers some resilience.

“I think numbers are very important,” she said.

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