The US government gave SpaceX millions to send Starlink terminals to Ukraine to ensure connectivity during Russia's invasion.
Elon Musk's rocket company previously said that it had not received money for its Starlink deliveries, and cast the whole effort as a charitable endeavor. However, the company did donate thousands of terminals in addition to those funded by taxpayers.
“I’m proud that we were able to provide the terminals to folks in Ukraine,” SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said at an event last month, where she told CNBC: “I don’t think the US has given us any money to give terminals to the Ukraine.”
But documents seen by The Washington Post show that USAID purchased around 1,500 Starlink terminals at $1,500 apiece, and spent $800,000 for transportation, adding up to over $3 million in public funds. It later bought another 175 units.
USAID also paid for the shipping of nearly 3,700 terminals, which were likely donated by SpaceX. The French government also covered the cost of delivering 200 Starlink kits, while Poland is believed to have helped with some deliveries.
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.”
The terminals come with three months of data, and have been used by select Ukrainians to stay online amid Russia's unprovoked invasion. Significant portions of Ukraine’s communications networks have suffered disruption due to physical and cyber attacks on telecommunications infrastructure.