SCIENCE & TECH: Elon Musk biographer Walter Isaacson corrects detail about Starlink in Ukraine
Elon Musk’s biographer Walter Isaacon took to social media to “clarify” one significant detail in an excerpt of his new book “Elon Musk” — set to be released on Tuesday — that describes how Musk intervened in a Ukrainian attack on Russian warships.
According to the book, Musk — the CEO of SpaceX, which operates satellite internet constellation Starlink — “secretly told his engineers to turn off coverage within 100 kilometers of the Crimean coast” in order to interrupt a Ukrainian military initiative that the author likened to a “mini-Pearl Harbor.”
“As a result, when the Ukrainian drone subs got near the Russian fleet in Sevastopol, they lost connectivity and washed ashore harmlessly,” Isaacson wrote in the 688-page book.
Isaacson later notes that Musk wasn’t totally on board with the arrangement, saying: “Starlink was not meant to be involved in wars,” according to the book.
The billionaire tech tycoon told Isaacson that he was worried a Ukrainian attack on Russian vessels would provoke the Kremlin into launching a nuclear war.
However, Isaacson revealed Friday in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, that “Ukrainians THOUGHT coverage was enabled all the way to Crimea, but it was not.”
“They asked Musk to enable it for their drone sub attack on the Russian fleet. Musk did not enable it, because he thought, probably correctly, that would cause a major war,” Isaacson wrote.
The user terminals work by communicating with SpaceX’s 2,000 satellites, which orbit the planet from space and allow users to get online even if their service has been disconnected.
It’s unclear whether Ukrainians had to pay for the terminals or for Starlink service. SpaceX reportedly charges anywhere from $599 to $2,500 up front for its Starlink Kit, which doesn’t include shipping.
The renowned author — who also wrote biographies about Apple founder Steve Jobs and former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger — added on Saturday that he “mistakenly thought the policy to not allow Starlink to be used for an attack on Crimea had been first decided on the night of the Ukrainian attempted sneak attack.”
“He [Musk] now says that the policy had been implemented earlier, but the Ukrainians did not know it, and that night he simply reaffirmed the policy,” Isaacson said.
Russia illegally annexed Crimea — a peninsula in Eastern Europe on the northern coast of the Black Sea — from Ukraine back in 2014.
Representatives for SpaceX did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment.
Isaacson’s corrections came after a senior aide to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy harshly accused Musk of “committing evil” — and being driven by “a cocktail of ignorance and big ego” — when he thwarted a drone attack on a Russian fleet.
Mykhailo Podolyak lashed out in the wake of claims that Musk ordered his engineers to turn off his Starlink satellite network operated by SpaceX in Crimea to prevent a “mini-Pearl Harbor” targeting Moscow’s warships back in 2022.
“Sometimes a mistake is much more than just a mistake,” Zelensky’s adviser wrote in an angry post on the Musk-owned social media site.
Podolyak argued that by not letting Ukrainian drones destroy a portion of Russia’s Black Sea fleet through his alleged meddling with the Starlink network, Musk allowed the naval ships to fire Kalibr missiles on Ukrainian cities and slaughter civilians.
“@elonmusk, while you try to colonize Mars — Russia try to occupy Ukraine!” Fedorov wrote on Saturday. “While your rockets successfully land from space — Russian rockets attack Ukrainian civil people! We ask you to provide Ukraine with Starlink stations and to address sane Russians to stand.”
Musk replied hours later that Starlink service was now active in Ukraine and said he would send more terminals. By the following week, he appeared to have delivered on that promise.
Ukrainian forces have come to rely on Starlink’s constellation of satellites to operate their military drones. The satellite links have also helped Ukrainian forces find the enemy and target long-range artillery strikes.
In October 2022, Musk called on the Pentagon to take over funding of the Starlink network operating in Ukraine after sparking an outage over his argument that Russia should be allowed to keep Crimea as part of a peace deal.
Musk ultimately backed down and continued footing the bill for Ukraine’s satellite internet service, which has been a lifeline for the war-ravaged country.