Starlink satellite services in Ukraine

Co-operation between Ukraine and Starlink

Starlink satellite services in Ukraine refers to the SpaceX's Starlink internet access service being provided to Ukraine's market. This service have been intertwined with the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, with Starlink providing critical communication lifeline to Ukraine's government and civilians despite persistent Russian bombing of traditional telecommunication infrastructures across Ukraine. The service had a pivotal role in the battle of Mariupol (2022), allowing besieged and resisting Ukrainian forces to keep reporting to the world on relentless Russian bombing and starving conditions.[1][2] Starlink now serves as a vital communication line in war torn Ukraine, complementing precarious traditional telecommunication infrastructures. As of September 2022, there were 23,000 Starlink terminals in Ukraine.[3]

Negotiations

SpaceX had been negotiating with Ukraine for the launch of Starlink a month and a half before the invasion, SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said. According to her, SpaceX was waiting for an official letter with permission.[4]

At the beginning of the surprise Russian's invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and as Russia attacked key infrastructures including telecommunication ones, Ukraine experienced significant problems with Internet access. Maintaining internet access became a vital and urgent matter for Ukraine's military and other government bodies.[5]

Services

Early services

Missile strike on Kyiv TV Tower, 1 March
Vitali Klitschko, Mayor of Kyiv, and his brother Wladimir Klitschko with Starlink terminals

On February 26, 2022, while Russian columns were advancing to take Ukraine's capital Kyiv, Ukraine's Minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine Mykhailo Fedorov asked Elon Musk on Twitter to provide assistance to Ukraine in the form of Starlinks.[5][4] Musk/Starlink reacted instantly: Ukraine's Starlink service was immediately activated (as it was not in a list of accessible countries before), while Musk/Starlink sent the first shipment to Ukraine, which arrived on February 28.[6][7][8][9][10]

Satellite internet from SpaceX had critical role in the Siege of Azovstal (April 15–May 20), where surrounded Ukrainian defenders resisted and pinned for weeks thousands Russian troops in Mariupol.[1] On March 21, two helicopters of "Operation Air Corridor" (March 21–April 7) carried Ukrainian Special Forces fighters, weaponry and the first Starlink terminal behind enemies lines to besieged Mariupol. Thanks to those Starlink terminals, besieged troops were able to keep connection with Ukrainian armed forces command, journalists and relatives, raising awareness and world wide coverage upon the heroic and apocalyptic situation there.[1][2]

In early May, Russian head of Roscosmos and politician Dmitry Rogozin said Elon Musk will be accountable "as an adult" because of his providing the Armed Forces of Ukraine with Starlink satellites.[11]

Starlink internet also started being used on the trains of Ukrainian Railways, during the restoration of communication in the liberated territories of Kyiv Oblast (in particular, Lifecell, Vodafone and Kyivstar used Starlink to provide mobile communication), etc.[12]

Growth

The Times reported in March 2022, that Ukrainian military were using Starlink to connect its drones attacking Russian forces.[13]

In an interview to The Washington Post, Mykhailo Fedorov said that European countries have sent Starlink terminals to Ukraine from their own supplies.[14]

Over time, the number of Starlink satellite terminals donated by SpaceX began to grow. The Ukrainian government bodies also started fundraising money to purchase more terminals (Starlink ground stations). In particular, already in June 2022, Ukraine received a new batch of satellites for Ukrainian intelligence units.[15]

On October 7, a report by the Financial Times quoted several Ukrainian officials criticising Starlink, speaking of "widespread connection failures" and "catastrophic" losses of communication.[16]

October controversy

On October 14, 2022, following Musk's controversial takes on the war, path to peace, and president Volodymyr Zelenskyy's questioning of Musk's allegiances, Musk warned the service was costing Starlink $20 million per month and stated it could not go on indefinitely.[17][18][19] Documents and customers billings show that both private and governmental agencies, mostly from US, Poland and the United Kingdom, are contributing for Starlink services.[19] Musk retracted on October 15.[19]

In numbers

As of April 5, SpaceX and USAID had delivered 5,000 terminals to Ukraine, of which SpaceX had donated 3,667 or 73%, and the rest had been purchased by USAID.[20] As of the end of September 2022, there were 23,000 Starlink terminals in Ukraine.[3]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c Landry, Carole (July 25, 2022). "Inside the Azovstal Siege". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 15, 2022.
  2. ^ a b Schwirtz, Michael (July 24, 2022). "Last Stand at Azovstal: Inside the Siege That Shaped the Ukraine War". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 15, 2022.
  3. ^ a b Olha Povaliaieva (September 19, 2022). "Worldwide "Starlink"". GTInvest. Retrieved September 20, 2022.
  4. ^ a b "Starlink в Україні: кому доступний інтернет від SpaceX та як ним користуватися". The Village Україна. April 29, 2022. Archived from the original on April 29, 2022. Retrieved July 12, 2022.
  5. ^ a b "@elonmusk while you try to colonize Mars — Russia try to occupy Ukraine! While your rockets successfully land from space — Russian rockets attack Ukrainian civil people! We ask you to provide Ukraine with Starlink stations and to address sane Russians to stand". Twitter. February 26, 2022.
  6. ^ "Elon Musk's Starlink arrives in Ukraine but what next?". BBC News. March 1, 2022. Archived from the original on July 9, 2022. Retrieved July 12, 2022.
  7. ^ Welle (www.dw.com), Deutsche. "Ukraine is using Elon Musk's Starlink for drone strikes | DW | 27.03.2022". DW.COM. Archived from the original on July 5, 2022. Retrieved July 12, 2022.
  8. ^ "Перша партія StarLink прибула в Україну (фото)". LB.ua. Archived from the original on April 21, 2022. Retrieved July 12, 2022.
  9. ^ "Starlink Маска прибув в Україну. Хто і як може користуватись інтернетом". BBC News Україна (in Ukrainian). Archived from the original on April 22, 2022. Retrieved July 12, 2022.
  10. ^ "В Україні запрацював супутниковий інтернет від Ілона Маска – Starlink. Яка швидкість та чи становить це небезпеку — Forbes.ua". forbes.ua (in Ukrainian). March 2, 2022. Archived from the original on March 11, 2022. Retrieved July 12, 2022.
  11. ^ "Ілон Маск відреагував на погрози Рогозіна нібито через постачання Starlink українській армії". LIGA (in Ukrainian). May 9, 2022. Archived from the original on June 11, 2022. Retrieved July 12, 2022.
  12. ^ "Втратити вежі й мільярди, отримати Starlink: як мобільні оператори повертають зв'язок". LIGA (in Ukrainian). May 16, 2022. Archived from the original on June 19, 2022. Retrieved July 12, 2022.
  13. ^ Parker, Charlie. "Specialist Ukrainian drone unit picks off invading Russian forces as they sleep". ISSN 0140-0460. Archived from the original on May 9, 2022. Retrieved July 12, 2022.
  14. ^ "Elon Musk's Starlink is keeping Ukrainians online when traditional Internet fails". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Archived from the original on June 4, 2022. Retrieved July 12, 2022.
  15. ^ Zaxid.net. "Ілон Маск передав партію Starlink для українських розвідників". ZAXID.NET (in Ukrainian). Archived from the original on July 11, 2022. Retrieved July 12, 2022.
  16. ^ "Ukrainian forces report Starlink outages during push against Russia". FT (in Ukrainian). October 7, 2022. Retrieved October 12, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  17. ^ Matthew Luxmoore (October 14, 2022). "Elon Musk said the cost of maintaining Starlink terminals in Ukraine is approaching $20 million a month and SpaceX can't fund the service indefinitely". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 14, 2022. Elon Musk said the cost of maintaining Starlink terminals in Ukraine is approaching $20 million a month and SpaceX can’t fund the service indefinitely [...] President Volodymyr Zelensky took to Twitter to question Mr. Musk’s allegiances
  18. ^ Metz, Cade; Vinograd, Cassandra; Cooper, Helene (October 14, 2022). "Elon Musk says SpaceX can't fund internet service in Ukraine 'indefinitely,' stirring controversy". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 15, 2022.
  19. ^ a b c Metz, Cade (October 15, 2022). "Elon Musk Drops Threat to Halt Internet Service in Ukraine". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 15, 2022.
  20. ^ Office of Press Relations (April 5, 2022). "USAID SAFEGUARDS INTERNET ACCESS IN UKRAINE THROUGH PUBLIC-PRIVATE-PARTNERSHIP WITH SPACEX". USAID. US Government. Archived from the original on April 5, 2022. Retrieved October 4, 2022. SpaceX donated 3,667 terminals and the internet service itself, and USAID purchased the additional 1,333 terminals
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