The ongoing war in Ukraine has highlighted the importance of technology in modern warfare. Ukraine’s Minister of Digital Transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov praised the Starlink satellite network, stating that “it has provided a crucial advantage in building the required communication network.”
Meanwhile, a satellite purchased through donations from Ukrainians, known as the “people’s satellite,” has been supporting the detection of enemy military equipment. Also, the environmental damage caused by the conflict is being assessed using satellite photos. This article provides insights into how technology, particularly Starlink and the “people’s satellite,” are playing a crucial role in Ukraine’s defence against Russia.
Starlink provides a crucial advantage for Ukraine
According to the Minister of Digital Transformation in Ukraine, Mykhailo Fedorov, the Starlink satellite network provides a crucial advantage in the conflict. In an interview with RBC-Ukraine, Fedorov stated that without Starlink it would have been impossible to build the network required for communication during the war.
Fedorov also noted that UAVs, or drones, have been crucial for the Ukrainian military, as they provide important situational awareness and allow for effective decision-making. While Russia also uses UAVs, Fedorov believes that the use of Starlink gives Ukraine an advantage in terms of speed and synchronisation of forces.
However, Fedorov also acknowledged that some units in the Russian Federation are effectively using walkie-talkies and UAVs, even without the use of Starlink. He emphasised the importance of synchronising forces and using technology effectively in order to gain an advantage.
Regarding SpaceX’s restriction of satellite communications for controlling drones, Fedorov stated that there are currently no problems with the operation of Starlink terminals in Ukraine. He also praised Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, as one of the biggest private donors for Ukraine, with an estimated contribution of more than 100 million US dollars.
With Ukraine continuing to face challenges in war, the use of technologies like Starlink and UAVs will likely continue to play a crucial role in the country’s defence.
People’s Satellite in Action
A satellite purchased through donations from Ukrainians has aided in the detection and destruction of Russian military equipment, according to a report from Ukrinform.net.
The ICEYE satellite, now known as the “people’s satellite”, was first used by Ukraine’s military intelligence on September 24, 2022. Since then, officers have conducted a space radar reconnaissance of nearly 1,000 locations of Russian units in temporarily captured and other territories of interest to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
During the five months of using ICEYE satellite data, Ukrainian forces detected 360 Russian Army tents, as well as 7,321 units of enemy military and special equipment, including 45 aircraft, 27 helicopters, six Iskander missile systems, 36 S-300 surface-to-air missile systems, 12 Pantsir S1 air defence systems, 11 radar stations, and 10 pontoon crossings.
The intelligence directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine noted that a large part of this list has been destroyed, reflected in daily reports from the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
The Main Directorate of Intelligence expressed their gratitude to all Ukrainian people who joined the fund-raising campaign for the satellite, to every volunteer who provides daily assistance to the defenders of Ukraine, and to the Serhiy Prytula Charity Foundation that organised the fundraising campaign.
Serhiy Prytula, a Ukrainian showman, announced in June 2022 that Ukrainians had raised money for the purchase of four Bayraktar drones for the Armed Forces of Ukraine in just three days. The Turkish company then announced that it would provide three drones to Ukraine free of charge and the money collected by the Prytula Foundation would be spent on humanitarian aid to Ukrainians. In August, Prytula announced that his fund had bought an ICEYE SAR radar satellite for the Armed Forces of Ukraine with the money raised by Ukrainians for the purchase of drones. The satellite provides high-quality images to help the Ukrainian military plan operations and detect and destroy Russian military equipment, weapons, and personnel 24 hours a day and in any weather.
Capturing environmental damage with satellites
According to the Ukrainian State Environmental Inspectorate, Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year caused at least 1.74 trillion hryvnyas (47 billion US dollars) worth of environmental damage. However, Ukrainian scientists, environmental protection specialists, and state inspectors cannot travel freely in the country to assess environmental damage, due to the occupation of five Ukrainian regions by Russian troops.
Schemes, the investigative unit of RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, showed Ukrainian environmental experts satellite photos of eight key land sites in Ukraine, that were taken by US satellite imagery company Planet, before and after fighting between Russian and Ukrainian armed forces. The satellite images show that an oil depot in Lviv, Kyiv’s Irpin River Dam, and Izyum’s forests in the Kharkiv region was severely damaged. The destruction of the Irpin Dam submerged seven villages in the Kyiv region and washed away a mix of pesticides and other agrochemicals, construction materials, paints from a metalworking shop, and heavy metals from transmission lines, transformers, and other parts of the local power network. Artillery strikes have caused craters that pose an environmental danger, as pollutants, including metal and chemical residues from the shells or missiles, enter the soil and groundwater.
Visit the RFE/RL website to view satellite images of key land sites before and after the fighting, and discover how Ukrainian scientists, environmental protection specialists, and state inspectors are working to assess the damage caused by the conflict.
Updates on #EUSpace4Ukraine initiative
#EUSpace4Ukraine is an initiative that unites helpers and innovators in supporting the Ukrainian people in their efforts to survive the Russian invasion. EUSPA is mobilising the EU Space innovation community that can provide technological solutions to enhance humanitarian support for the Ukrainian people. This platform aims to match innovators with NGOs and other helpers through the #EUSpace4Ukraine Network.
In February, EUSPA hosted the ‘EUSpace4Ukraine Demonstrator for Humanitarian NGOs – Online Workshop’. To see the workshop summary and to learn more about how you can contribute to this initiative, check the presentation here.
Support Ukraine from Space
From the first days of the invasion of Russian troops into Ukraine, we have been informing you about the use of satellite data during the war.
Check out all articles on this topic on our dedicated page.
Featured image credit: rawpixel.com
Article edited by Remco Timmermans