The invasion of Ukraine by Russia has led to a huge wave of solidarity around the world. Elon Musk also wanted to support Ukraine by delivering free satellite dishes to allow the inhabitants to access the Starlink Internet network.
It all started with a simple exchange on Twitter
On Saturday, February 26, Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister, challenged Elon Musk on Twitter, asking him to “provide Starlink stations to Ukraine”. Shortly thereafter, the SpaceX CEO responded to Fedorov by saying, “Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals are on the way”.
This February 28 evening, the Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister posted a photo thanking Musk for his responsiveness. In the photo, numerous Starlink dishes, though it is difficult to count exactly how many, are visible on the back of a truck.
As fighting continues in Ukraine, concerns have been raised about the possibility of cyberattacks on critical Internet infrastructure, which could make it more difficult for Ukrainians to disseminate information to and from the country or to contact their loved ones. As CNBC reports, Mykhailo Fedorov’s call for help came after a suspected cyberattack disrupted Viasat’s satellite-internet service.
The war is also waged online
In this case, however, it is unclear whether Starlink will be able to provide a quality, uninterrupted network while the fighting seems to be greatly intensified, as the antennas require free access to the sky. It is also unclear where exactly the dishes are located, although one person based in Kiev has announced that they are connected to the network. Moreover, it is clear that the entire country cannot be covered by the network, so it remains to be seen whether SpaceX will decide to send more equipment to Ukraine.
SpaceX’s move demonstrates how digital technology is now an integral part of armed conflicts around the world. The war is being waged on the ground as well as online, as evidenced by the cyberattack on the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense last week.
Starlink is a flexible network
With Starlink, SpaceX wants to bring a high-speed Internet network to the most remote areas of the world through a huge constellation of satellites, which currently has more than 2,000 devices. The number is expected to grow to at least 12,000. In order to connect to the network provided by the satellites, users must purchase a satellite dish costing $499.
With this move, Elon Musk demonstrates the flexibility of his network, which can be useful beyond the simple use for private individuals. Last September, he explained how the company would use the links between the satellites to create a network capable of providing services even in countries that prohibit SpaceX from installing terrestrial distribution infrastructure.