Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) has announced his intention to launch an investigation into SpaceX’s actions in Ukraine. This decision comes after reports emerged that Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, blocked Ukrainian forces’ access to Starlink internet services.
The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) released a statement on September 14th, citing the public reports about the use of the Starlink system in Ukraine as the reason for initiating the investigation.
This issue was previously discussed during a military space hearing held by the SASC in March, where Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) criticized SpaceX for discontinuing full services at a critical time for Ukraine’s self-defense.
The recent release of Walter Isaacson’s Musk biography has reignited the debate. The book mentions how Elon Musk shut off Starlink’s satellite network over Crimea, a territory occupied by Russia that Ukraine was fighting to reclaim.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), another member of the SASC, has also called for an investigation into the Starlink matter and a Defense Department review of SpaceX’s contractual relationship.
Regarding SpaceX’s agreement with Ukraine, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall stated that he was not familiar with the terms but emphasized that any company, regardless of its leadership, would be expected to comply with the terms of their contract with the Department of Defense.
In response to these developments, Sen. Reed expressed concerns about serious national security liability issues being exposed. He highlighted SpaceX’s contributions to advancing U.S. interests in space but emphasized that no private citizen, including Elon Musk, should have the final say in matters of national security.
The SASC is actively investigating this issue from various angles and will collaborate with the Department of Defense to protect U.S. national security interests.
SpaceX initially provided Starlink services in Ukraine through an agreement with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). More recently, the company received a Defense Department contract for Starlink services in Ukraine. SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell previously acknowledged that Starlink was not intended to be weaponized but expressed concerns about Ukraine leveraging the technology in unintended ways.