A United States general is crediting Elon Musk and his Starlink Internet service with keeping Ukrainian communication lines open in the war-torn country, while thwarting Russian efforts to shut them down.
“The strategic impact is, it totally destroyed [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s information campaign,” Brig. Gen. Steve Butow, director of the space portfolio at the Defense Innovation Unit, the Pentagon’s Silicon Valley tech outpost said in a June 8 Politico report. “He never, to this day, has been able to silence (Ukrainian President Volodymyr) Zelenskyy.”
Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk and his SpaceX company are developing the satellite network and Earthbound receivers to beam the Internet around the planet, serving areas that could not have the high-speed broadband service in the past.
According to the company, the signals traveling between the receivers on Earth and a “constellation” of satellites orbiting about 342 miles above the surface, are faster than fiber-optic networks and can provide the service to more remote locations on the planet.
Musk sent the systems to Ukraine in March after officials there requested them following Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion, the Washington Post reported at the time.
“While you try to colonize Mars — Russia try to occupy Ukraine! While your rockets successfully land from space — Russian rockets attack Ukrainian civil people,” Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov Tweeted to Musk Feb. 26. “We ask you to provide Ukraine with Starlink stations and to address sane Russians to stand.”
Musk replied to post the same day, saying that “Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals en-route.”
According to the Politico report, the systems have been keeping vital military communication lines open for the Ukrainian forces and have also been used for troops to keep family members abreast of their situation.
Drones use the information relay the service provides to target Russian bombs on Russian forward positions and kept the people in combat areas in touch with the rest of the world despite Russian attempts to block communications, the report said.
“We’ve got more than 11,000 Starlink stations and they help us in our everyday fight on all the fronts,” Fedorov told Politico. “We’re ready, even if there is no light, no fixed internet, through generators using Starlink, to renew any connection in Ukraine.”
Russia hacked an American satellite company an hour before it invaded in February, crippling the Ukrainian military that used the system for communications, as well as thousands of other Internet users throughout Europe, the report said.