After the country’s digital transformation ministry asked SpaceX CEO Elon Musk to send them some Starlink satellites, a shipment of Starlink terminals arrived in Ukraine.
“Starlink — here. “Thanks, Elon Musk, for helping us!” Minister of Transport of Ukraine Mykhailo Fedoryov tweeted alongside an image showing the back of a lorries loaded with Tesla’s new Model 3 cars.
Elon Musk tweeted back, “Thank you for your kind words.”
The terminals look like satellite TV dishes and can provide relatively high speed internet service, by residential broadband standards, by connecting to fleets of satellites in low orbit (which are usually positioned at an altitude of between 500km and 1,200km).
But John Scott-Ralston, a senior researcher at University of Toronto’s CitizenLab project, warned the terminals could become Russian target.
“Elon Musk donated $10 million to help Good to see. But remember: if #Putin controls the air above Ukraine, users’ uplink transmissions become beacons … for airstrikes,” he tweeted.
“Russia has decades’ worth of experience at targeting people through their satellite communications.”
The risk is that satellites from the ground in Ukraine might be triangulated and attacked by the Russian military, who has previously used the technique in Chechnya and in Syria.
“Satellite Internet” feels like a savior during times of conflict when the internet has been disrupted. “But it quickly introduces very real and potentially deadly new vulnerabilities.”
If you don’t understand them then people die needlessly until you learn and adapt. It’s happened again. And again,” he continued.
Elon Musk said on Saturday that SpaceX is sending more terminals for satellite internet access to Ukraine, which has been affected by the Russian invasion.
Fedorov thanked the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States who helped to quickly approve the activation of StarLink in Ukraine.
One of the challenges for installing satellites is to ensure that they can be connected to from ground stations, Tim Farrar said.
One must go to the top of a tall building to set up an antenna, but it’s a pretty vulnerable place to be.
“It won’t be able to replace terrestrial internet on a large-scale.”
SpaceX did not immediately reply to a request for comment from Reuters.