The ‘People’s Satellite’: the Ukrainian crowdsourced satellite
Last month the Ukrainian people bought a satellite. A fundraising project for the purchase of ‘Bayraktar’ reconnaissance drones by the Serhiy Prytula Foundation ended with the purchase of a satellite to help the Ukrainian army. This SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) satellite from Finnish satellite company ICEYE may become one of the most important sources of intelligence data for Ukraine. The acquisition of a satellite by the Ukrainian people went viral in the media, including here on Groundstation.Space. So what happened since?
The ‘People’s Satellite’ – A citizens’ satellite for the war in Ukraine
“Our goal is to have our own constellations of satellites”
Vadim Skibitsky / Image credit: Screenshot from video (Source)
According to the representative of the Defence Intelligence of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine, Vadym Skibitsky, at the end of August, the process of registration of the satellite was still underway. “Soon we will be able to receive satellite images in order to clearly know the plans, intentions and positions of enemy units,” Vadim Skibitsky explained on the air of the telethon of the Ukrainian TV channel Channel 24. The representative of the Main Intelligence Directorate also noted that Ukraine’s goal is to have its own constellations of satellites that will allow space intelligence.
“Awareness is the key to our victory”
The ICEYE satellite, which was acquired by Serhiy Prytula’s Charity foundation, allows the Ukrainian army to use its assets more rationally, explains a member of the Aerorozvidka NGO, Lieutenant Colonel Yaroslav Gonchar.
“Awareness is the key to our victory. The more informed each Ukrainian soldier, the more chances our small army will have to act against the large, clumsy, predictable Russian one. The appearance of an extra source of information is always welcome, and the comparison “A satellite has appeared – a drone is not needed” should not be made here.”
Satellite allows a more rational use of assets
With the addition of the new reconnaissance satellite, there is an opportunity to use existing assets more rationally. With several tasks taken over by the satellite, the fleet of drones can now focus on fewer and more specific tasks.
Of course, the satellite is a very specific source of information. It doesn’t take ordinary photos and the information is presented in a rather specific form, requiring specialised analysis. The information then needs to be cross-checked with other sources of information. The more sources of information we have, the better and more Ukrainian intelligence will be available.”
Challenges in the use of satellite data
Along with the technical advantages and characteristics of the satellite, there are human difficulties in the data distribution chain:
“We face a big challenge because our old Soviet military school and military science were created when the main sources of information for us were the fighters on the battlefield.
Now the situation is that the source of information from the ICEYE satellites is being processed by one of the security and defence forces institutes of Ukraine. All information goes to them, where they work hard to process everything themselves and distribute it among users. This creates bottlenecks and delays. We need to work on streamlining this process, but we are confronted with limited resources with the knowledge required to work with SAR data”, explains Yaroslav Gonchar.
“In two days, the enemy lost more armoured vehicles than the entire satellite project is worth”
First results of ‘the people’s satellite’
Meanwhile, the Minister of Defence of Ukraine Oleksiy Reznikov shared the first results of using the ‘people’s satellite’ on his Facebook page, where he explained how the satellite data is being received and ‘translated’:
“Thanks to the funds of Ukrainians, support from space is already producing results on the battlefield… One satellite fully works for the needs of our defence, while almost two dozen more satellites are involved when there is a need… The Defence Forces of Ukraine, primarily the combat brigades of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, have been receiving a steady data stream from the ICEYE satellites. The images are processed almost in real-time by military intelligence specialists of the Ministry of Defence, who have undergone appropriate training.
“For obvious reasons, I cannot reveal all the details, but just imagine: in the first two days of the satellite’s operation, more than 60 units of military equipment that the enemy tried to disguise in forest strips and behind other obstacles were discovered. This was directly credited to the Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) technology. Optical satellites would not have detected these units. Instead, the coordinates of the “hidden” enemy units were quickly transmitted for inflicting fire damage. In particular, in the area of Khreshchenivka and Ukrainka in Kherson Oblast, as well as near Novoselyvka in Donetsk Oblast.
“In fact, in just these two days, the enemy lost more armoured vehicles than the entire satellite project is worth! But of course the main thing is that this information helps save the lives of our soldiers, who are priceless.”
What are the key benefits provided by ICEYE satellites?
“First, Ukraine got the opportunity to combine optical satellite data from partners with this new SAR data. This fundamentally increases our ability to detect and inflict damage on the Russian occupiers. Satellites with SAR technology become especially relevant in autumn and winter when the weather is bad, cloudy or snowy. There is no difference for them, day or night. Therefore, the enemy cannot not hide.
“Secondly, it is our military that determines where and when to receive the necessary data. Currently, systematic monitoring of the main areas of hostilities in the south and east is carried out.
“Thirdly, information flows from analysts to combat units very quickly. It will be more difficult for the Russian occupiers to hide their intentions, which will further complicate their logistics.
Therefore, I would like to once again thank everyone who contributed to the financing of this initiative, the team of the Serhiy Prytula Foundation – for its implementation, and entrepreneur Maksym Polyakov – for his very important assistance.
Russian troops do not have such capabilities
“This is a real contribution to strengthening Ukraine’s defence thanks to its technological advantage. After all, the Russian troops do not have such capabilities.
“I have already repeatedly noted that we will be able to defeat Russia only at the expense of the quality of our defence. That is why I consider this project to be a kind of startup that will open the door to other ambitious initiatives and solutions.
“At the meeting, we also discussed other needs of our military to coordinate actions for the coming months. There are several interesting ideas that have the potential to become popular projects.
Thanks to an Army of Volunteers
“I want to once again thank the entire volunteer community for the versatile, powerful, competent support of our soldiers. It’s real synergy.
“The advantage of the defence department is in the scale of activity and systematic processes. The strength of volunteers lies in their mobility, flexibility, and absence of formalities that burden the process of spending budget funds.
“For example, in five months, the Ministry of Defence delivered more than 500,000 pieces of body armour to the Armed Forces only under direct contracts with manufacturers. Thanks to the hard work, reserves of more than 150,000 pieces of body armour are now in stock.
“But in March-April, the operational assistance of a growing number of citizens and businesses, accumulated through volunteer structures, was invaluable for providing information to the army. In the same way, non-linear projects, which in the future can be put on the rails of the state, are sometimes easier and faster to launch as people’s initiatives.
“When a heroic and professional army relies on such a people, the victory of Ukraine is inevitable”
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.
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Featured Image: ICEYE
Edited by Remco Timmermans