How Starlink and Elon Musk’s Satellite Constellations are Changing Warfare

How Starlink and Elon Musk's Satellite Constellations are Changing Warfare

“The race for the stars” (3/4). It all started with an exchange of tweets. On February 26, as Russian troops, which had entered Ukraine two days earlier, threatened to take the capital, kyiv, Ukrainian Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov sent a desperate message to Elon Musk, owner of the company SpaceX spacecraft. “While you are trying to colonize Mars, Russia is trying to occupy Ukraine! (…) We ask you to provide Ukraine with stations [de télécommunication par satellite du système] Starlink »begs the young leader on Twitter.

Ten hours later, the response of the American billionaire falls on the social network: “The Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals are on the way. »

Nearly ten months after the attack by Vladimir Putin’s troops, military experts recognize it: without the contribution of Elon Musk’s telecommunications satellites, the Ukrainian army would not have resisted the Russian assaults, at least not as well.

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By allowing troops in kyiv to remain connected to each other, despite the bombardments on the terrestrial telecommunications network, the Starlink system kept the army of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky together and allowed his staff to continue its operations. “Starlink technologies have changed this war”, recognized Mr. Fedorov, during a conference in Lisbon, at the beginning of November. A decisive contribution which did not escape the Western armies.

Ukrainians connect to a military-installed Starlink satellite in Kherson on November 13, 2022. Many satellites are installed to provide internet connections to the population.

How Starlink is used in Ukraine

Comparable in size to a suitcase, capable of being powered from a car battery, Starlink’s small satellite dish was quickly adopted by Ukrainian troops, who use it both to contact their command centers only to send images taken by their drones or coordinates of enemy targets to be bombed.

“Starlink delivers the equivalent of 4G or fiber to the home anytime, anywhere, regardless of the situation and destruction on the ground”appreciates Colonel Guillaume Bourdeloux, head of the space operations brigade of the French Air Force.

Since the start of the war, some 25,000 Starlink terminals have been sent to Ukraine, according to Elon Musk. Some of them have been rented by individuals, soldiers or civilians, who wish to support the troops and pay a subscription of around 100 dollars (93 euros) per month to use them.

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