Senators ask Pentagon for answers on SpaceX’s Starlink service in Ukraine

SpaceX, Twitter and electrical automotive maker Tesla CEO Elon Musk, arrives for a US Senate bipartisan Artificial Intelligence (AI) Insight Forum on the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on September 13, 2023. 

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds | AFP | Getty Images

WASHINGTON  Three Democratic members of the Senate Armed Services Committee have requested the Pentagon for details about SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, and whether or not he “directed the unilateral disabling or obstacle of perform of Starlink satellite tv for pc communications terminals utilized by the Ukrainian Armed Forces in southern Ukraine in 2022,” or ever had the authority to take action.

Democratic Sens. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois wrote a letter on Friday to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to exppress their “severe issues about whether or not Mr. Musk has personally intervened to undermine a key U.S. companion at a essential juncture.”

Their questions comply with the publication of a biography of Elon Musk, who’s CEO of SpaceX and automaker Tesla, and proprietor and CTO of the social community X (previously Twitter). In the guide, creator Walter Isaacson wrote {that a} Ukrainian drone submarine assault on Russian warships was disrupted by a disconnect from Starlink, ordered by Musk.

Excerpts from the guide raised alarm bells in Washington, amongst NATO allies and in the Ukrainian capital. After they have been printed, Musk painted himself as a peacekeeper, and wrote on social media that he didn’t disconnect Starlink over Crimea, however fairly denied a request by Ukraine to offer it there. He wrote, “If I had agreed to their request, then SpaceX can be explicitly complicit in a serious act of warfare and battle escalation.” Isaacson has issued a correction to his biography stating that connectivity had already been disabled in the affected space, and that Musk had merely refused a request to show it on.

Musk also argued, as he has in the previous, that Ukraine ought to strike a “truce” with Russia. Musk’s “peace plan” argument was shouted down by Ukraine officers, politicians, and Putin consultants.

On Tuesday, in an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” Isaacson mentioned SpaceX creating a military-grade model of Starlink, which might assist resolve issues expressed by Musk concerning the satellite tv for pc networks’ use in warfare.

CNBC requested the Department of Defense a number of questions pertaining to SpaceX, together with whether or not the division can be re-evaluating any of the corporate’s authorities contracts, whether or not Musk’s calls for a truce between Ukraine and Russia replicate the U.S. authorities’s place, and whether or not Musk’s conduct, together with taking private conferences with Putin in the previous, had been in line with the phrases of contracts awarded to his firm.

A spokesperson for the division, Jeff Jurgensen, informed CNBC through e-mail, “The Department does contract with Starlink for satellite tv for pc communication companies in assist of our Ukrainian companions,” however declined to supply additional particulars or reply the particular questions posed.

He added that the Department of Defense “continues to work carefully with industrial business to make sure we’ve got the fitting capabilities the Ukrainians must defend themselves — and extra broadly — the type of communication and space-related capabilities crucial to perform our personal international missions and assist our nationwide protection technique.”

Earlier in the week, Sen. Warren called for a Congressional probe of Musk and SpaceX. “Congress wants to research what’s occurred right here, and whether or not we’ve got enough instruments to ensure international coverage is carried out by the federal government and never by one billionaire,” Warren stated on Monday, Bloomberg first reported.

SpaceX is at the moment working to acquire a brand new license from the Federal Aviation Administration, and approvals from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to renew take a look at flights for its Starship Super Heavy launch car from its Boca Chica, Texas facility. An earlier take a look at flight this yr resulted in an explosion and a mishap investigation overseen and not too long ago accomplished by the FAA.

The firm plans to make use of Starship to launch and deploy its subsequent technology Starlink satellites. Musk additionally envisions Starship taking astronauts and provides to the Moon, and finally Mars.

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