The ‘People’s Satellite’ – A citizens’ satellite for the war in Ukraine

 The ‘People’s Satellite’ – A citizens’ satellite for the war in Ukraine

Since the Russian invasion into the territory of Ukraine, many organisations jumped in to help the Ukrainian people. We mentioned a few examples earlier, when satellite imagery companies offered to provide Ukraine satellite data to help them defend their country.

The main focus for all these initiatives has always been the people of Ukraine. However, in the “People’s Bayraktar” crowdfunding project they are now picking up the initiative themselves. A large group of Ukrainian citizens came together to raise funds for the purchase of unmanned ‘Bayraktar’ (Turkish drone manufacturer) aerial vehicles for the Ukrainian army. Some time later this action ended with the purchase of a satellite!

From People’s Bayraktar to the People’s Satellite

Ukrainian TV presenter, actor and producer Serhiy Prytula has been raising money to support the needs of the Ukrainian army. Starting as a private volunteer when Russia began its occupation of Crimea and Donbas in 2014, Serhiy helped units of the Ukrainian army with the supply of food and equipment. Currently, the Charity Foundation Serhiy Pritula has four logistics centres in several cities in Ukraine and a centre in Przemyśl (Poland). 

Once the idea to purchase the drones was announced, the Fund raised UAH 600 million (approximately 16.3 million euro) for four Bayraktar TB2 drones, in only three days. Half of the amount was collected through small individual transactions of less than 1,000 UAH (approximately 27 euro), which justifies the name of the fundraising campaign “People’s Bayraktar”.

Ukrainians have crowdfunded a satellite! (ENG subtitles are included)

After the fundraising campaign ended, the Turkish Baykar company, which produces Bayraktar, was so impressed that it decided to give Ukraine three drones for free. 

Expanding Space for Ukraine

Last week, Finnish satellite-imagery company ICEYE announced that it had signed a contract with the Serhiy Prytula Charity Foundation to provide the government of Ukraine with ICEYE’s Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite imaging capabilities.

Minister of Defence of Ukraine Serhiy Reznikov in his column for shared some details of the acquisition of the satellite.

“Now”, according to the minister, “the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defence, the Armed Forces of Ukraine and other components of the defence forces will have data on the constellation of ICEYE satellites that collect information using Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) technology. This will help to fight the enemy [Russian troops] much more effectively while saving people’s lives.”

The acquisition of the satellite was carried out in consultation with the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine, based on current needs. In Ukraine, they understand that they will not be able to outnumber Russian troops, so they focus on quality.

Based on advice from the Ministry of Defence, Serhiy Reznikov concluded that the opportunities offered by ICEYE turned out to be the most attractive. However, the high cost of the equipment made the military leadership of Ukraine not even hope to use this technology.

In the end, thanks to the Ukrainian entrepreneur Max Polyakov, in the process of negotiations, it was possible to obtain the favourable conditions that made the space dream a reality.

As the secretary of defence explains, the combination of good intelligence from satellites and the capabilities of precision-guided weapons does create new opportunities.

Image credit: ICEYE

The head of the charitable foundation, Serhiy Prytula, also explained on Radio Svoboda the importance of acquiring this satellite:

“ICEYE owns the largest number of radar satellites launched into orbit. For the Ukrainian army this is better than owning an optical satellite. Although optical satellites are also good and necessary, after a series of consultations a SAR satellite was chosen. When the satellite that we have acquired does not fly over Ukraine we will still be able to access other satellites and the imagery bases that they take while passing over the territory of Ukraine.

This is a unique story, in which I congratulate the entire Ukrainian people, the Ukrainian state, and, most of all, the Ukrainian army. Because the technologies that we have now obtained are technologies that our enemy does not have. We are making history again. People from young to old donated and acquired a satellite for their state. We have indeed signed an agreement, which states that the Ukrainian side receives the satellite for use until the end of the satellite’s life in orbit. If something happens to the satellite during the warranty period, the company undertakes to replace its components or the entire satellite with an identical one. And for a year, we purchased access to the full ICEYE satellite constellation database and even after the expiration of the data access period, the satellite still remains ours.

The group of states that own this technology is small. There are companies that own these types of satellites, but they are few. And there are even fewer companies that are ready to sell us such a satellite. Our partners who own this technology share satellite data and satellite images with our army and our intelligence services. They do this out of goodwill and give us data when they see it is relevant to our cause. Now we have our own satellite, thanks to which the Ukrainian army and our intelligence services can use the data they need when they want it and much faster than before. Where it used to take several days to receive relevant processed data, now this will only take a few hours”.

Also read

Interpreting SAR Satellite Images

SAR in Support of the War in Ukraine

SAR for change detection in Mariupol


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.

Space for Ukraine

Featured image: Screenshot of the video “Ukrainians have crowdfunded a satellite!!”

Author: Vincet Veritas. Edited: Remco Timmermans

Vincet Veritas

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