Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The US government has reportedly paid to send Starlink terminals to Ukraine

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Notwithstanding SpaceX implies that the US did not give money in March to send Starlink terminals to Ukraine, a report of The Washington Post reveals that the government actually paid millions of dollars for equipment and transportation. The report found that the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, paid $1,500 each for 1,333 terminals, which amounted to about $2 million. USAID disclosed the number of terminals it bought from the company in a press release from the beginning of April that changed since then to remove listings of the purchase.

According to space reporter Joey Roulette, SpaceX donated 3,667 terminals to Ukraine, or about $10 million worth, after also factoring in the three months of data it provided with the terminals. However, it is possible that this donation was subsidized in part by USAID’s purchase of $1,500 per unit. The Washington Post says it’s unclear whether Ukraine has received standard terminals, which SpaceX currently charges $600 for, or the advanced terminals, which were announced in February and cost $2,500.

When USAID bought regular terminals, it paid $900 more than the retail cost per unit (added to about $1.2 million) — notably, a recent report said that the terminals cost SpaceX about $1,000 to build† It’s possible that USAID also paid for Internet service, which costs $110 per month for Starlink’s standard plan and $500 per month for its premium plan available at the more expensive terminals.

The Washington Post also reports that USAID agreed to pay more than $800,000 for the transportation of the 5,000 terminals shipped to Ukraine through what the agency now calls a “public-private partnership.”

In February, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister posted images of a truck filled with what appeared to be standard Starlink terminals, days after tweeting to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk for help. However, it is unclear whether these terminals were shipped exclusively by SpaceX The Washington PostThe report states that USAID had previously purchased 175 Starlink terminals as part of a separate agreement.

It appears that SpaceX has made a significant charitable donation to Ukraine. USAID told the After in a statement that the “delivery of Starlink terminals was made possible by a range of stakeholders, whose combined contributions were worth more than $15 million,” and the original press release stated that SpaceX donated $10 million in equipment in service. But, as with many other SpaceX projects, the company appears to have secured a significant amount of public funding for the project.

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