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Starlink Gets a Jump amid Russia-Ukraine Conflict

Since 2021, the Starlink of SpaceX, an American space exploration company, has entered the stage of rapid deployment. It was put into use in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict that broke out in February 2022 and soon became Ukraine’s information lifeline, playing a significant role in diplomatic propaganda, daily civilian use, and military operations. This article will dive into Starlink deployment in politics, commerce and military affairs.



Dedicated to surpassing and reshaping the ground-basis network, the US space exploration company SpaceX's Starlink satellites have been launched in batches in recent years, accelerating the completion of the last blank area of ​​the global network connection.

In this brand-new data space and system, people and everything in the connecting network are nodes and paths which generate, transmit, and store data. It changes the basic structure of information dissemination, production, expression, provision, demand, reception, acquisition, effect, and reconciliation. Thus, network media has jumped from the level of channels or tools to overall social arrangements, institutional structures, and even cultural integration.

Since the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict in February 2022, it has been in a state of tension. Although the Russian army interrupted and destroyed the ground network base station and power supply station in Ukraine, causing the original network to be paralyzed, it did not wholly interrupt the Ukrainian military communications nor Ukraine's voice on global social platforms.

The secret to keeping Ukraine connected despite severe damage to its own network infrastructure lies in the Starlink satellite internet project led by Elon Musk's SpaceX.

Starlink connection mode and layout status

Starlink is an Internet access service launched by SpaceX that provides global coverage through a large-scale satellite group. It plans to launch 42,000 satellites in low, medium, and high orbits around the earth before 2027, thus forming a global network. The "Super Internet".

Millions of people worldwide cannot access the Internet with high quality because fiber optic cables cannot access their places of residence. Starlink solves the problem of geographical access through satellite Internet in a high-altitude manner.

As of July 10, 2022, SpaceX has launched a total of 2,750 Starlink satellites (including decommissioned or malfunctioning satellites, and this number will continue to grow in the foreseeable future), of which about 2,569 satellites are in orbit run. Five hundred thousand registered users in 32 countries, including the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Mexico, in 9 languages.

As the basic technology of information dissemination, the satellite Internet represented by Starlink is characterized by comprehensive coverage, low networking cost, and reliable transmission quality.

Satellite Internet is equivalent to a communication base station built near the earth and high altitude. It can overcome the limitations of geographical conditions, break through the geographical space barrier, and realize the seamless connection of the global network through the dynamic connection methods of "satellite interconnection" and "star interconnection".

The Starlink network has significantly accelerated its layout from January 2021 to May 2021 and from February 2022 to May 2022, especially during the period from February to May 2022, which corresponds to the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict and duration. From February 3 to May 18, 2022, 12 batches of 611 satellite launches were completed in 105 days (573 of which were in operation). In terms of the cycle, one batch is launched in about 8.75 days; in frequency, an average of 5.81 satellites are launched daily.

Starlink satellite launch time and cumulative number of operations

In May 2020, the U.S. Army and SpaceX signed a three-year protocol to test the use of Starlink to transmit data between various military networks. In 2021, the U.S. Air Force installed antennas on the C-12J intelligence aircraft platform, with a communication speed of 610 Mbps. Starlink can also support UAVs to form a more powerful cluster combat mode based on the high-speed communication technology of air transmission.

Starlink's signal distribution around the world and in Ukraine

There was no secret dispatch, intermediate platform, or government or parliamentary order. Just two days after the Russian army entered Ukraine (February 26), Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Fedorov tweeted Elon Musk on Twitter and asked him to activate the Starlink service in Ukraine. Later on, Elon Musk gave a prompt reply and support.

From the end of February to the beginning of March, SpaceX delivered multiple batches of Starlink terminals to Ukraine (the Ukrainian government paid 1/4 of the total cost, SpaceX donated part, Polish oil company PKN and some EU allies donated the other amount).

After that, the two continued to update and interact with the application of Starlink on social media. Musk was like an e-commerce customer service, guiding and reminding the precautions for using Starlink. For this reason, Facebook also set up a particular group to solve related problems. Directly solving significant military communication problems through social media is precisely the thinking of the art of war in the Internet age.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation and SpaceX began negotiations in early 2022. On the one hand, they hope that the Starlink network can improve Internet access in rural areas of Ukraine. On the other hand, they also prepare for special scenarios that may arise in advance. The outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict has accelerated the speed of Starlink network access to Ukraine.

According to the official website of SpaceX, there are currently three types of access status: light blue indicates available that most areas in the United States and Europe have connected to the Starlink network; darker blue indicates waitlist that some areas are trying to access this year, such as Ukraine, is in trial operation; the darker blue shows that some areas will be connected after 2023. Gray areas such as Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, China, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria, and Venezuela cannot access to the Starlink network.

Through the satellite data map, it is found that although the number of Starlink satellites is sufficient to cover Ukraine, there is no Starlink ground gateway in Ukraine, which mainly provides transit through neighboring countries such as Lithuania, Poland, and Turkey Serve.

According to European officials familiar with the matter, the ground equipment of the Starlink satellites was placed in a neighboring country to avoid Russian attacks. Still, it also caused long delays in the connection signal.

Oleg Kutkov, a citizen of Kyiv, is the first Starlink user in Ukraine. He said in an interview with NBC that he often gets a download speed of 200 Mbps, which is enough to meet the needs of most people, not to mention that he is in a wartime situation.

Starlink Becomes Ukraine’s Information Lifeline

After the war broke out, Russia's offensive severely affected Ukraine's original network system. BroadbandNow, an American broadband market research company, conducted a network study of 8 cities in Ukraine and found that since the war between Russia and Ukraine, the three indicators of Ukraine's Internet connection speed, data packet loss, and minimum round-trip time have declined rapidly.

However, in cyberspace, Ukraine has established information channels through Starlink

Compared with the network connection method of traditional ground base stations, Starlink has realized the upgrade of the Ukrainian network through the air-to-ground satellite Internet link, and it is a dimension reduction counterattack against the Russian army.

Ukraine reconnected to the network through Starlink, and Starlink immediately became the most downloaded app in Ukraine; Ukrainians have gone from zero to 215,000 downloads of the Starlink app in one month (58% of the global total), according to app analytics firm Apptopia.

With the comprehensive assistance of Starlink and the world's online media, Ukraine presents various information about the conflict between Russia and Ukraine to the world through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and other social and video platforms. It also symbolizes the first war reported through a video and webcast.

Another critical role of Starlink is to become an essential strategic resource in Ukrainian military operations by commanding UAVs for surveillance and operations.

In an era where Command, Control, Communications, Computing, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems are critical to military operations, the Internet of Satellites performing C4ISR functions offers comprehensive military advantages.

The use of Starlink in Ukraine is that the frontline transmits real-time battlefield information at high speed through small drones and the Starlink network. After receiving the data, the rear headquarters further directed drones or fighter jets to carry out strike missions. The Ukrainian aerial reconnaissance unit Aerorozvidka has used Starlink to monitor, control, and coordinate drones; Aerorozvidka performs about 300 information collection tasks daily, enabling Ukrainian soldiers to ambush and counter Russian tanks in a targeted manner.

"Drones have changed the way warfare is done," said Valerii Iakovenko, founder of Ukrainian drone company DroneUA. Iakovenko estimates that the Ukrainian military has more than 6,000 reconnaissance drones, which can be linked to the Starlink satellite system to upload the captured image data.

Starlink's ability to defend against cyber attacks

In the face of the air network forces that Starlink is building, Russia is using electronic warfare methods to prevent signal access from space.

According to an interview done by Business Insider with Elon Musk, he mentioned, "It was interesting to view the Russia anti-satellite demonstration a few months ago in the context of this conflict."

"It caused a lot of strife for satellite operators. It even had some danger for the space station, where there are Russian cosmonauts," he added. Musk said it would be challenging to "take out" the satellites. "If you attempt to take out Starlink, this is not easy because there are 2,000 satellites," he said. However, Musk warned Starlink users in Ukraine that they should turn to the system "only when needed," as they may be targeted in the ongoing war.

Starlink is leading the significant change

Starlink has become an essential strategic resource that replaces traditional networks for information release, military communications, and power for weapons. However, its current technological level does not guarantee that it will be foolproof when performing tasks.

The Starlink application in the Russia-Ukraine conflict is an epochal footnote of the deep global involvement of network technology. It is bringing about profound changes affecting the entire communication chain. From the high-speed information highway to the "Space-Earth Integration Network", the satellite Internet represented by Starlink is an essential carrier for the strategic transformation of space security; Along with other incremental technological advances in the network, Musk's satellite system in the Russia-Ukraine conflict reflects a significant change in how satellites are deployed and used in conflict zones.

Disclaimer: The source of data in this article is obtained from the internet. Monisight, an industry insightful ideas-sharing platform, will not bear any legal compliance from it.


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