Exactly nine months ago Russian troops invaded the territory of Ukraine, starting a full-scale war on the European continent. Since then we have been reporting about the use of satellite data and other space-related technology in this war.
Starlink Internet in Liberated Kherson
At the end of October, the Ukrainian authorities announced their plan to create public places with stable Internet that continue to work in the event of power outages. These wifi spots will run on Tesla Powerwall batteries and satellite internet terminals provided by SpaceX Starlink.
Last week Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation reported that communication in the liberated city of Kherson was restored using Starlink equipment. Starlink satellite internet helps to quickly restore connections while local operators update broken infrastructure.
“It is not easy to restore communication in the de-occupied territories”, states the Ministry of Digital Transformation. “The Russian invaders destroyed and mined Kherson’s telecom infrastructure for months. So now the State Emergency Service, mobile operators, ISPs and other Ukrainian daredevils work 24/7 so that people who were under occupation for nine months can call their relatives and hear: “Hello, how are you?”
The People’s Satellite
This summer, Ukrainians purchased an ICEYE satellite equipped with Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imaging capabilities.
Since the acquisition of the satellite, only a few examples of its use have been reported. It is possible that details of the satellite’s operation are being kept secret for security reasons. In a recent interview, the founder of the Serhiy Prytula Foundation explained the need for this satellite:
“Our armed forces and our intelligence had not previously received such a number of satellite images and did not have access to control the satellite at such a speed as now. Speed defines everything. Partners could decide whether or not to give us pictures from a certain area and when to give them. We saw that two days ago there was an accumulation of equipment in this area, but we do not know if it is there now…
…This satellite is radar, it does not take photos in the same way as optical, but if there is smoke, rain or fog, or at night, you will not see anything from optical. You were not surprised that all these photos, where everything is so clearly visible, were only taken during the day? Our new satellite doesn’t care, because it’s a radar. It sends a signal that is reflected, so it sees when there is something happening there. Analysts then sit down and decipher it and tell us if there is a tank or air defence unit.”
“I don’t get mad at people who question the merits of this or that acquisition. It doesn’t matter if it’s me, other volunteers, or the state. I do what the Ukrainian army tells me. The military told me that they needed this, so we got together with the foundation and did it”
War in Space?
Meanwhile, Konstantin Vorontsov, Deputy Director of the Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control of the Russian Foreign Ministry, said that US commercial satellites, if used in the conflict in Ukraine, could become legitimate targets for a strike:
“We are talking about the involvement of components of the civilian space infrastructure, including commercial, by the United States and its allies in armed conflicts,” Vorontsov was quoted as saying at the United Nations.
A senior Russian foreign ministry official didn’t mention any specific satellite companies.
Satellites are Tracking Russian troops on the Banks of the Dnipro River
Journalists of Radio Liberty and Schemes (Skhemy) analysed recent satellite images of Russian forces having dug extensive trenches and other fortifications on the east bank of Ukraine’s Dnipro River, as Russia stages a major retreat from the opposite bank and braces for further Ukrainian offensives.
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.