Tesla CEO Elon Musk arrives at a U.S. Senate bipartisan Artificial Intelligence Insight Forum at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC on September 13, 2023

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WASHINGTON Three Democratic members of the Senate Armed Services Committee have asked the Pentagon for information about SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and whether he “ordered the unilateral deactivation or inoperability of Starlink satellite communications terminals used by Ukrainian forces in southern Ukraine in 2022.” “or ever had the authority to do so.”

Democratic Senators Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Friday expressing their “serious concerns about whether Musk personally intervened to protect an important U.S -undermining partners at a critical time.” “

Their questions follow the publication of a biography of Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX and automaker Tesla and owner and chief technology officer of the social network X, formerly known as Twitter. In the book, author Walter Isaacson wrote that a Ukrainian drone submarine attack on Russian warships was interrupted by a Starlink disconnection ordered by Musk.

Excerpts from the book set alarm bells ringing in Washington, NATO allies and the Ukrainian capital. After its release, Musk portrayed himself as a peacekeeper, writing on social media that he did not shut down Starlink because of Crimea, but rather rejected a request from Ukraine to deploy it there. He wrote: “If I had agreed to their request, SpaceX would be explicitly engaging in a major act of war and conflict escalation.” Isaacson has issued a correction to his biography, saying that connectivity had already been disabled in the affected area and that Musk had made a request I simply refused to turn them on.

musk also argued, as in the past, that Ukraine should conclude a “truce” with Russia. Musk’s “peace plan” argument was rejected by Ukrainian officials, politicians and Putin experts.

On Tuesday, in an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” Isaacson discussed SpaceX’s development of a military version of Starlink that would help address concerns raised by Musk about the use of the satellite networks in war.

CNBC asked the U.S. Department of Defense several questions related to SpaceX, including whether the department would reevaluate any of the company’s government contracts, whether Musk’s calls for a ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia reflect the U.S. government’s position, and whether Musk’s behavior, among others. a Participation in personal meetings with Putin in the past was in accordance with the terms of the contracts awarded to his company.

A department spokesman, Jeff Jurgensen, told CNBC via email: “The department is contracting with Starlink for satellite communications services to support our Ukrainian partners,” but declined to provide further details or answer specific questions asked .

He added that the Defense Department “continues to work closely with commercial industry to ensure we have the right capabilities that Ukrainians need for self-defense — and more broadly, the kinds of communications and space capabilities needed to accomplish that.” of our own global missions.” Support our national defense strategy.

Earlier this week, Senator Warren called for a congressional investigation into Musk and SpaceX. “Congress must examine what happened here and whether we have adequate tools to ensure that foreign policy is run by the government and not by a billionaire,” Warren said Monday, as first reported by Bloomberg.

SpaceX is currently working to obtain a new license from the Federal Aviation Administration and approvals from the US Fish and Wildlife Service to resume test flights for its Starship Super Heavy launch vehicle from its base in Boca Chica, Texas. An earlier test flight this year resulted in an explosion and an accident investigation that was monitored by the FAA and recently completed.

The company plans to use Starship to launch and deploy its next-generation Starlink satellites. Musk also envisions the spacecraft carrying astronauts and supplies to the moon and eventually Mars.

Read the full letter here.

Source : www.cnbc.com

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