Walter Isaacson explains how in the early stages of Russia’s war with Ukraine, Russia knocked out a lot of communications and internet access. Elon and SpaceX have provided 20,000 Starlink terminals which were vital for sustaining Ukraine’s economy and critical communication in the company.
Lauren Dreyer, SpaceX’s director of Starlink operations, began sending Musk updates twice a day. “Starlink kits are already allowing Ukraine Armed Forces to continue operating theater command centers,” she wrote on March 1. “These kits can be life or death, as the opponent is now focusing heavily on comms infrastructure. They are asking for more.” In February and March of 2022 there were about 2500 Starlink units sent to Ukraine.
Unlike every other satellite service, they were able to find ways to defeat Russian jamming. By March 6, the company was providing voice connections for a Ukrainian special operations brigade. Starlink kits were also used to connect the Ukrainian military to the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command and to get Ukrainian television broadcasts back up. Within days, 6,000 more terminals and dishes were shipped, and by July there were 15,000 Starlink terminals operating in Ukraine.
Elon indicated that Ukraine had an emergency request to activate Starlink in Sevastopol.
Sevastopol is the largest city in Crimea and a major port on the Black Sea. Due to its strategic location and the navigability of the city’s harbors, Sevastopol has been an important port and naval base throughout its history. Since the city’s founding in 1783 it has been a major base for Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.
Ukraine wanted to use weapons that would destroy Russia’s Black Sea fleet while it was in still anchored in the port.
Elon chose not to activate the Starlink service in Sevastopol because of concerns that such attacks could trigger a Russian nuclear response or World War 3.
Nextbigfuture notes that the US military has global satellite communications and there are many other providers of global satellite communications. If this was a priority for the US military to support Ukraine, then there were other means to provide unjammed satellite communications for weapons or for an attack. Starlink was not the only option for some communication. The fact that SpaceX could avoid jamming is something that the US military could have helped Iridium or other satellite communication providers.
According to CNN, the phone used by the two Ukrainian leaders in 2022 to evade Russian tracking and cyber attacks could be an Iridium 9575 A, which is commonly used in the White House and whose network consists of 66 satellites located some 780 kilometers above the earth’s surface.
This is the inside story of how Musk used Starlink to help Ukraine, then pulled back one tense Friday night, and how he finally resolved his role — including the secret encrypted messages with Ukrainian minister Federov and the deal he made with the US. https://t.co/gufgWtRUfH
— Walter Isaacson (@WalterIsaacson) September 7, 2023
In September, the Ukrainian military was attempting a sneak attack on the Russian naval fleet based at Sevastopol in Crimea by sending six small drone submarines packed with explosives, and it was using Starlink to guide them to the target.
There are several points:
The US and UK militaries have the means to provide guidance to drone submarines.
Also, there is no guarantee that the drone submarine attack with Starlink enabled would have succeeded.
It is insane to have the logic that because Elon and SpaceX had provide tens and possibly hundreds of millions of support that they were obligated to give more. This is like saying that Boeing, Lockheed or Grumman were part of supplying F16s and so now they have to provide F-35s. It is just that the CEOs of those military contractors would not take a direct phone call from Ukraine to get an emergency request. They would have the requests go through military and spy agency and political channels.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
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