The announcement made by company president Gwynne Shotwell. For Ukraine, which does not have an air force or effective protection against attacks from the air, the reduced operational capacity of the drone fleet would be a big problem
In the Elon Musk galaxy, without manager solidly incardinated in the company due to a rapid turnover caused by fatigue, layoffs or fights with a brilliant but capricious boss, Gwynne Shotwell a rare exception: in SpaceX since its foundation, twenty years ago, for more than ten he has been the operational helm of Musk’s space enterprise. Now, in addition to the responsibility of sending men to the orbiting space station with SpaceX rockets and capsules and testing the Starship spacecraft designed to take man to the Moon and then to Mars, Musk gave that to communicate to the government of Kiev that from now on he will no longer be able to use the communications guaranteed to him by the Starlink satellite network for war purposes. Thankless task for Shotwell, carried out on her own (in the past Elon himself had taken care of the political and military weight of Starlink with his tweets) to make a feral announcement for Zelensky, especially now that the Russians appear poised to launch another massive offensive. A thankless and also embarrassing task because, after rushing a year ago to deliver satellite reception systems to Ukraine that had just been attacked by Putin to replace the communication networks destroyed by the invaders with Starlink, now Musk is pushing Shotwell to either argue that the use of minisatellites to guide drones violates the terms of service of the contract between the US company and the Ukrainian government.
Beyond the bolt from the blue that infuriates the Ukrainian government, Shotwell had to support the unsustainable: that a year ago, when SpaceX rushed to the aid of an exhausted Ukraine, no one in the company wondered if Kiev would also use Musk’s electronic systems for war purposes. As already last October, when Musk suddenly began to interrupt the operation of his satellites over the Crimea and over other areas where there was fighting, the reaction of the ministers in Kiev was very harsh: accuses the businessman of having left Ukrainethe invitation to choose which side to take. In October, Musk reacted to allegations of treason by threatening to withdraw Starlink service from Ukraine and lamenting that he has already spent over $80 million of his own money to champion the cause of those people. Then, after the clash with the Ukrainian ministers, the threat of Musk returned. Also for the US government to start paying for part of the equipment. This time the more serious problemBut it’s unclear how serious the damage could be to Ukraine’s military: Shotwell says Starlink is not designed to be used with offensive or defensive weaponry. In other words, in addition to those between citizens, the system can also be used for military communications, but not to direct a drone to a target. It is unclear to what extent Starlink is able to intercept different types of usage and selectively block them. But for Ukraine, a country that has no aviation or effective protection against attacks from the air, the possible loss or reduced operational capacity of the drone fleet would be a big problem.
February 10, 2023 (change February 10, 2023 | 08:46)
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