In the now more than 80 days of war in Ukraine we have released two dozen publications on the use of satellite data in wartime. In our publications we provide the latest news and we conduct investigative journalism on topics relevant to space data in Ukraine. One of our storylines is about the implementation of Starlink in Ukraine.
The story of Starlink in Ukraine started almost from the beginning of the Russian invasion. Last month, Starlink opened an office in Ukraine. Starlink satellite internet helps infrastructure running and it is used to quickly restore communication in destroyed areas and for military operations.
After three months, the war is slowly disappearing to the background in the mainstream news. Nevertheless, space data continues to provide crucial support to the people in Ukraine.
Recap: A Brief Story of Starlink in Ukraine
- On February 26 the Minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, Mykhailo Fedorov, asked Elon Musk on Twitter “to provide Ukraine with Starlink stations..”
- Gwynne Shotwell, president and COO of SpaceX, said that the company had been working for weeks to secure approval for Starlink services in Ukraine. The Minister’s tweet became this de facto permission.
- On March 5, the first Starlink terminals arrived in the Ukrainian capital.
- Elon Musk’s Twitter opponent, director of Russian space agency Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin, reacted emotionally to the cooperation of SpaceX with the Ukrainian government.
- Despite rumours that Starlink would be open to anyone, the Ukrainian authorities repeatedly emphasised that the satellite internet system only works at strategic facilities, within a short range of the Starlink terminals.
- Starlink has become the most downloaded application in Ukraine.
- The Ukrainian army uses the Starlink internet to help target Russian military equipment: “If we use a drone with thermal vision at night, the drone must connect through Starlink to the artillery guy and create target acquisition.” an officer from the Aerorozvidka unit told The Times.
- Thanks to Starlink, communication was restored in the Kyiv region.
- John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at the Citizen Lab, an academic laboratory at the Munch School of Global Relations and Public Policy at the University of Toronto, warns that Starlink carries risks because the signal from satellite dishes can be tracked by the Russian military.
- The Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine announced that “after the victory, together with Elon Musk, we plan to build our Starlink ground station to improve the quality of satellite internet for all Ukrainians.”
- Starlink in Ukraine has more than 150,000 daily active users (for May 2, 2022)
- At the end of April, ‘Starlink Ukraine’, a representative office of SpaceX, was registered in Ukraine
Reconnecting to the World
The Minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, Mykhailo Fedorov, was clear that Elon Musk’s satellite internet helped to restore internet connections in a number of regions in Ukraine. For example, in the Borodyanka and Gostomel settlements in the Kyiv region, Starlink helps local people stay connected, while local cellular operators work to restore damaged cables.
“While providers are repairing cable damage, Gostomel’s humanitarian headquarters is working with the help of Starlink. Due to its small size, it is sometimes confused with a solar panel. Everyone can charge their phone and get the latest news from loved ones”, shares Mykhailo Fedorov on his social media.
In addition, according to Mykhailo Fedorov, the Office of the President of Ukraine held an online meeting with Kimbal Musk, brother of Elon Musk. Kimbal Musk is on the board of directors of Tesla and SpaceX. The meeting took place in early May.
Azovstal, Threats and Cyber Attacks
One of the most dramatic chapters in the war is the situation in Mariupol. For many days, Ukrainian soldiers and civilians were forced to hide in the large Azovstal plant.
The commander of the unit of the 36th Marine Brigade of Ukraine, Serhiy Volyna, registered a new account on Twitter for the sole purpose of turning to Elon Musk for help in mediating the exit from the Azovstal plant to a safe country.
The appeal itself is not related to satellite Internet, but Elon Musk’s connection with Azovstal has repeatedly been mentioned by a number of Russian media. Dmitry Rogozin stated that “the delivery and transfer to the Armed Forces of Ukraine of subscribed boxes for receiving and transmitting the Internet from Starlink were carried out by the Pentagon.”
“Thus, Elon Musk is involved in supplying the fascist forces in Ukraine with military communications,” Dmitry Rogozin concluded that Elon Musk would have to bear responsibility for this.
Last week, Elon Musk reported that Starlink continues to resist cyberattacks from Russia.
Support Ukraine from Space
From the first days of the invasion of Russian troops into the territory of Ukraine, we have been informing you about the latest news and opportunities for using satellite data during the war.
To see all our articles please visit our dedicated page.
Featured image credit: Ukrinform