What is Elon Musk’s Starlink broadband internet system used in Ukraine?
The founder of SpaceX has offered the company's new technology, designed to provide internet connection to underserved areas, to Ukrainian authorities.
On Friday Elon Musk, founder and CEO of aerospace and communications manufacturer SpaceX, announced that his company is focusing on supporting Ukraine amid the invasion by Russian forces.
After Russia invaded Ukraine Musk offered the use of SpaceX’s Starlink technology to replace the traditional internet infrastructure that was coming under cyberattack from Russia. Musk said that he responded to a request from a Ukrainian government official by sending Starlink ground terminals to the besieged nation.
The shipment arrived in Ukraine on 28 February but the next-generation broadband technology was then targeted by Russian hackers looking to disrupt the service. In a tweet on Friday, 1 March Musk confirmed that cyber defence was now a top priority for the company but that “some Starlink terminals near conflict areas were being jammed for several hours at a time.”
What is Starlink and how will it help Ukraine?
The technology offered to Ukraine by SpaceX first went live in May 2019 when a group of 60 Starlink satellites were sent into orbit with the aim of providing “high-speed, low-latency broadband internet across the globe.”
By 2021 the network, or constellation as the company calls it, had grown to more than 1,700 satellites with the aim of covering all of the populated world. However the system is designed to provide internet access in areas where that would otherwise be limited, so it is currently restricted to 29 licensed countries.
A statement from the company claims: “Starlink is ideally suited for areas where connectivity has been unreliable or completely unavailable. People across the globe are using Starlink to gain access to education, health services and even communications support during natural disasters.”
Why is internet connection so important to Ukraine?
In recent days Ukrainian internet networks have been attacked by Russia with the aim of reducing or even completely removing their connections. This would have huge ramifications for Ukraine and its people as they resist the Russian invasion.
The importance of internet connections to coordinate a military response is enormous, particularly with so many untrained civilians volunteering to support the nation against Russian troops.
Internet connection will also be vital to ensure that the population at large is kept informed of developments and emergency response can be done more efficiently. If Ukrainian intelligence gets word of an imminent attack or threat to life, internet access will allow them to get the message out to a wide audience.
Finally the importance of recounting the atrocities currently occurring cannot be overstated. In the past week protests and anti-war demonstration have been seen around the world and has put pressure on governments to offered greater support to Ukraine. Even in Moscow, where the media is closely controlled and dissenting voices are harshly punished, the horror of first-person accounts, images and videos from Ukraine have sparked huge protests in many major cities.