Although Elon Musk has created controversy around the Ukrainian conflict, his satellite internet access system has become an indispensable tool for the country.
It all started with a tweet from the Ukrainian Minister of Digital Transition in February. Two days after the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Mykhailo Fedorov invited Elon Musk to put aside his conquest of Mars to provide Starlink kits to Ukrainian forces. The objective was to counter the first Russian attacks, which had neutralized the country’s main telecommunications tools, using SpaceX’s satellite internet service.
Operations disrupted by malfunctions
Almost eight months later, Ukraine has about 25,000 Starlink kits to connect the country. For civilians, these devices are synonymous with communicating with loved ones and accessing the internet. But for the armed forces, it is an essential tool for the reconquest of the territory. Such importance that the Financial Times specifies that the SpaceX service has taken “a disproportionate role” on the battlefield.
An excess that has put Ukrainian fighters in a difficult situation in recent weeks, reports the British daily. Malfunctions have disrupted recent military operations by troops, who rely on the Starlink system to use drones, receive vital information or simply communicate with each other in areas where there is no secure network.
Service cuts occurred in hotly contested areas in the east and south of the country. Three soldiers have confirmed that their Starlink system has been shut down on the battlefield. It would be a direct action by SpaceX, according to Roman Sinicyn, the coordinator of the Serhiy Prytula Charity Foundation, which provided Starlink kits to the Ukrainian armed forces.
“It is absolutely clear to me that the representatives of Starlink act in this way to prevent the use of their technology by the Russian occupation forces,” Roman Sinicyn told the Financial Times.
A good understanding disturbed by the words of Elon Musk
With service interruptions lasting up to a few days, the disruptions would occur in areas whose release “has not yet been made public”, adds Roman Sinicyn. He also recalled the need for closer coordination between the teams of SpaceX and the Ukrainian army.
However, the recent controversial statements of Elon Musk risk disrupting the good understanding of the two entities. By proposing his “peace plan”, the boss of Tesla and SpaceX has drawn the wrath of Ukraine. And this, even if the contractor indicated that the deployment of the Starlink system for Ukraine weighs for approximately 80 million dollars on SpaceX. A cost that should reach 100 million dollars by the end of the year.