WASHINGTON — The Pentagon confirmed it has hired SpaceX to provide communications services to Ukraine through the company’s constellation of more than 4,000 Starlink satellites.

“We continue to work with a range of global partners to ensure Ukraine has the satellite and communication capabilities they need,” the U.S. Department of Defense said in a June 1 statement. “Satellite communications constitute a vital layer in Ukraine’s overall communications network and the department contracts with Starlink for services of this type.”

The Pentagon did not disclose the details of the buy — including cost, contract timing or the length of service — citing operational security concerns. Bloomberg first reported the existence of the contract.

“Due to the critical nature of these systems — we do not have additional information regarding specific capabilities, contracts or partners to provide at this time,” DoD said.

SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The company, owned by billionaire Elon Musk, has been providing Ukraine with Starlink terminals since 2022, following Russia’s invasion of the country. Musk indicated last October SpaceX would no longer be able to fund Ukraine’s use of the satellites, which he said at the time had cost the company $80 million since the start of the war. He later walked back those comments, and the Pentagon confirmed it was in discussion with the company about securing funding for the service.

Along with the cost of providing Starlink services to Ukraine, SpaceX officials have expressed concerns about the country’s “weaponization” of the capability. Ukraine’s use of Starlink for battlefield connectivity and coordinating strikes has been widely reported.

“It was never intended to be weaponized,” SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said Feb. 8 at the Federal Aviation Administration’s Commercial Space Transportation Conference in Washington, DC. “The Ukrainians have leveraged it in ways that were unintentional and not part of any agreement.”

SpaceX announced in December it would create a new national security-focused business unit called Starshield designed to build on its launch and satellite communications offerings and introduce new capabilities like Earth observation.

Courtney Albon is C4ISRNET’s space and emerging technology reporter. She has covered the U.S. military since 2012, with a focus on the Air Force and Space Force. She has reported on some of the Defense Department’s most significant acquisition, budget and policy challenges.

More In Space