• Musk said last month Starlink will continue funding Ukraine even if the company is losing money
  • Starlink outages in Ukraine started on October 24
  • A new report revealed that the outages were due to lack of funds

Nine months into the Russian invasion, Ukraine faces another major issue–thousands of its Starlink units went offline creating a communications outage among its users who depend on the satellite internet for information, communication and coordination.

Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov confirmed a few days ago at the Lisbon Web Summit that the Ukrainian government already had a discussion with SpaceX CEO Elon Musk about Starlink's service and expressed his confidence that the satellite internet service will continue in the country. A new report from CNN revealed that Ukraine suffered from a communications outage because thousands of its satellite internet units went offline, citing two sources familiar with the incident.

The outage, according to the report, started on October 24 and was considered a "huge problem" for Ukraine's military since the block of 1300 terminals was used for the country's combat-related operations. The report pointed out that one of its sources claimed the terminals had been disconnected because of a lack of funding.

How many funds are involved to maintain a block of 1300 satellites? According to the report, SpaceX charges $2500 per month to maintain the 1300 units and make sure they are connected. Since the start of the invasion until September, Ukraine has reached a total cost of $20 million for its satellite internet.

The report claimed that "a person briefed on the matter" relayed that Ukraine could no longer afford to pay, hence the decision to disconnect the block. Ukraine's Ministry of Defense reportedly asked its British counterparts to pick up the $3.25 million monthly bill but after the talk, a British official said, "it was agreed there were higher priority military capabilities."

The official further shared with CNN that they "support a number of terminals that have a direct tactical utility for Ukraine's military in repelling Russia's invasion." The official added, "We consider and prioritize all new requests in terms of the impact contributions would have in supporting Ukraine to defend its people against Putin's deplorable invasion."

Based on the report, it is clear that the issue is funding. However, some could not help but link Russia to the recent Starlink outage, especially after what Russia's foreign ministry, Konstantin Vorontsov said last month.

"We would like to specifically stress an extremely dangerous trend that goes beyond the harmless use of outer space technologies and has become apparent during the latest developments in Ukraine. Namely, the use by the United States and its allies of civilian, including commercial, infrastructure elements in outer space for military purposes," the Russian official said.

"Apparently, these States do not realize that such actions in fact constitute indirect participation in military conflicts. Quasi-civilian infrastructure may become a legitimate target for retaliation. Western actions needlessly put at risk the sustainability of peaceful space activities, as well as numerous social and economic processes on Earth that affect the well-being of people, first of all in developing countries," Vorontsov noted.

"At the very least, this provocative use of civilian satellites is questionable under the Outer Space Treaty, which only provides for the peaceful use of outer space, and must be strongly condemned by the international community," he added during a UN meeting last month.

Musk assured the Ukrainian government last month that Starlink will keep funding it eventhough the company is losing money. "Even though Starlink is still losing money & other companies are getting billions of taxpayer $, we'll just keep funding Ukraine govt for free," Musk said.

Illustration shows Starlink logo and Ukraine flag