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In reply to Elon Musk's (controversial) peace plan for Ukraine, someone tweeted that

USAID and other paid for Strlinks, you fake philanthropist.

tweet from "redacted"

(A tweet with 6000+ "likes", so reasonably believed I think, despite the somewhat anonymous source.)

So is this true? Were the Starlink units for Ukraine not paid by Musk himself? (Or to make this more fair, not even by companies majority-owned by Musk or foundations to whom he donates the majority of their funds?)

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  • Seems, the twitter user deleted their account Commented Oct 6, 2022 at 18:09
  • @BernhardDöbler a smart move - Musk is about to buy Twitter ;-)
    – Aaron F
    Commented Oct 6, 2022 at 19:20

1 Answer 1

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At least some Starlink units have been paid by SpaceX.

It is not possible to establish whether any of those were "paid by Musk himself", no sources cite anything like that.


It seems that of total $15M / 5,000 units affair,
only USAID has paid circa $3M, including:

  • $2.25M for 1,333 units at the price of $1,500/ea.
    (cf. retail price $599, but it may or may not include subscription costs)
  • $800k for delivery of all 5,000 units.

Also, "some help" from France and Poland was acknowledged.

Other sources claim that about 85% of the 20,000 terminals in Ukraine were fully or partially paid for by the US, Poland or other entities, which corroborates with the remaining 3,000-3,500 units.

The rest might have been paid by SpaceX, but its President Gwynne Shotwell has declined to provide with details.


This article has been published on The Washington Post on April/08/2022:
U.S. quietly paying millions to send Starlink terminals to Ukraine, contrary to SpaceX claims

It refers an article at USAID.gov site that initially was more specific about numbers, but allegedly has been revised since then.

Original post (Web Archive)

USAID post on April/5

As it is today (link)

USAID post as of now

The WaPo article also says:

USAID spokesperson Rebecca Chalif told the Post that the “delivery of Starlink terminals 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.”


Poland seems to have also paid for another lot of 9,000 units:

The largest single contributor of terminals, according to the newly obtained documents, is Poland with payment for almost 9,000 individual terminals.CNN, October/14/2022.

The total number of units in Ukraine has reached 20,000, of which 85% (17,000) have been paid by others, so it leaves circa 3,000 units that could have been paid by SpaceX itself:

According to the SpaceX figures shared with the Pentagon, about 85% of the 20,000 terminals in Ukraine were paid – or partially paid – for by countries like the US and Poland or other entities. Those entities also paid for about 30% of the internet connectivity, which SpaceX says costs $4,500 each month per unit for the most advanced service. (Over the weekend, Musk tweeted there are around 25,000 terminals in Ukraine.) — CNN, October/14/2022.

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  • 24
    It's interesting that there seems to a be degree of effort to conceal the source(s) of the funding. It's a bit strange since many other donations to Ukraine aren't obscured like that. Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 3:32
  • 11
    @Fizz Even the true cost of Starlink terminals is concealed. The current retail price for consumers doesn't seem to cover the actual manufacturing costs. There was also some speculation whether SpaceX ripped USAID in the higher-than-retail pricing.
    – jpa
    Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 13:01
  • 4
    Apparently scrutiny by China (where Musk has businesses) may have been one of the reasons for the lack of complete transparency. Another interesting bit is that he was targeted by the Chinese before "Chinese diplomats complained at the UN in December that SpaceX satellites had forced China’s space station to manoeuvre out of the way to avoid dangerous collisions, allegations that sparked a wave of social media abuse of Musk." Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 22:20
  • 2
    "The criticism intensified after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. China Military Online, an official publication of the People’s Liberation Army, last month attacked SpaceX’s deep links to the US armed forces, including commercial contracts with the military, and slammed Starlink’s capacity to “enhance the US military’s combat capability”. “There is a good chance that Starlink will be taken advantage of by the hegemony-obsessed US to bring the world into.... chaos or calamity,” the publication said." And so the PLA is preparing “soft and hard kill methods” against Starlink, just in case. Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 22:24
  • 5
    @Fizz What is so strange? A lot of critics/opponents of Putin died under mysterious circumstances, so if I were doing anything against Putin/Russia, I would have kept my mouth shut too. Commented Oct 5, 2022 at 15:51

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