Fri. Sep 29th, 2023
Democratic Senators Express Concerns About SpaceX in Letter to Defense Secretary

Three Democratic Senators, Jeanne Shaheen, Elizabeth Warren, and Tammy Duckworth, have written a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin expressing concerns about a report in an Elon Musk biography. The report claimed that SpaceX disconnected service to the Ukrainian military prior to an attack. This raised concerns among NATO allies and in the Ukrainian capital.

The Senators are requesting information from the Pentagon regarding whether Elon Musk directed the disabling or impediment of Starlink satellite communications terminals used by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. They want to know if Musk had the authority to do so. They also expressed serious concerns about whether he intervened to undermine a key U.S. partner.

These concerns stem from a biography of Musk written by Walter Isaacson. In the book, it was claimed that a Ukrainian drone submarine attack on Russian warships was disrupted by a disconnect from Starlink, ordered by Musk. Musk later clarified on social media, stating that he denied a request by Ukraine to provide Starlink in Crimea, as agreeing to the request would make SpaceX complicit in a major act of war.

Isaacson has since issued a correction, stating that connectivity had already been disabled in the affected area and that Musk simply refused a request to turn it on. However, this has not alleviated concerns from the Senators.

The Department of Defense has confirmed that they contract with Starlink for satellite communication services in support of the Ukrainian partners but did not provide further details on SpaceX’s government contracts or Musk’s conduct. Senator Warren has called for a congressional probe into Musk and SpaceX to ensure that foreign policy is conducted by the government and not by one billionaire.

SpaceX is currently working to obtain a new license from the Federal Aviation Administration to resume test flights for its Starship Super Heavy launch vehicle. The company plans to use Starship for launching and deploying its next generation Starlink satellites, as well as for missions to the Moon and eventually Mars.