Drones used in the field are able to use the newly available Starlink to keep connected and provide intelligence as internet and power outages plague Ukraine.
With the technology, the drones can be directed to drop anti-tank munitions to help ward off the Russian attack.
The so-far-successful implementation of the satellites into the defense of the war-torn nation makes good on a promise outspoken mogul Musk – who challenged Putin to a fist fight for the future of Ukraine earlier this week – made to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky earlier in the month, that SpaceX will send more Starlink satellite stations to provide internet to some of the country’s stricken cities.
The president of the embattled country took to Twitter to thank the Tesla CEO, 50, for the support, and invited the tech mogul to visit Ukraine once the war is over.
Talked to @elonmusk. I’m grateful to him for supporting Ukraine with words and deeds. Next week we will receive another batch of Starlink systems for destroyed cities,’ Zelensky wrote at the time.
Meanwhile, more Musk satellites are still coming.
Early Saturday morning, a further 53 Starlink internet satellites were launched into space via rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, further bolstering the burgeoning surveillance network.
SpaceX said Saturday that the 230-foot rocket, dubbed the Falcon 9, launched the satellites into low orbit without a hitch.
The Ukrainians are also enlisting the help of PD-1 unmanned aerial vehicles fitted with infrared sensors. With a wingspan of 10 feet, the vehicles are being used to collect vital information on the movements of Russian troops.
The Ukrainian drone unit uses a ‘Delta’ system, which has been perfected in recent years with the help of Western advisers.
It can be accessed by basic laptops, and has a ‘situational awareness’ software installed, which creates an interactive map using images from drones, satellites, human intelligence and sensors to build a physical picture to help in tracking the enemy.
The system, which is said to be on par with similar NATO technology, is believed to have been tested in the Sea Breeze military exercise held in the Black Sea in 2021, which involved the USA, Ukraine and 30 other countries.
The Ukrainians have perfected the system with the help of Western countries, who have provided radio communications superior to Soviet-era technology. The US is said to have spent millions of dollars on the system to protect against Russian hacking.
Over the past week, the US has contributed roughly $1 billion in new assistance to Ukraine.
US President Joe Biden on Wednesday detailed how much military aid the US is already providing – and will provide – to the country, after President Zelensky recorded an impassioned plea for aid from the superpower, asking Biden to back a no-fly zone his administration has repeatedly rejected.
In the remotely held address to the US senate, Zelensky urged Americans to remember Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 attacks when looking at the recent events in Ukraine, and firmly asked the president, by name, in English, to step in.
‘It’s not enough to be the leader of the nation. Today it takes to be the leader of the world,’ Zelensky said. ‘Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace. Peace in your country doesn’t depend anymore only on you and your people. It depends on those next to you and those who are strong.’
Following Zelensky’s speech, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also criticized the Biden administration for what he’s seen as a lackadaisical response to the conflict in Ukraine.
Biden Wednesday called Zelensky’s speech ‘convincing and significant,’ as he announced an additional $800 million in military assistance on top of an already $13.6 billion aid package for the country, in a spending bill signed into law Tuesday, which includes weapons sought-after by Ukrainian forces to quell the Russian onslaught, such as anti-armor and anti-air systems.
Speaking from the White House, Biden said the new package will consist of 9,000 anti-armor systems, 7,000 small arms, 800 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, 20 million rounds of ammunition, and 100 drones, ‘so [Ukrainians] can continue to defend their space.’
During the speech, Biden asserted that the US is ‘fully committed’ to getting those weapons to Ukraine in the coming days.
With that said, there are still fears that the system could be impacted by internet disruption as Russia continues its assault, leading to power outages and internet connectivity issues.
Starlink, however – now the most popular app in Ukraine, with more than 100,000 downloads in the few weeks since it went live – uses terminals that resemble TV dishes equipped with antennas that have so far addressed those concerns, with the satellites mounted on roofs to allow Ukraine citizens to access the Internet via satellite in rural or disconnected areas.
Ukraine has so far received thousands of antennas from Musk’s companies and European allies, which the country’s minister of digital transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, saying the tech has already proved ‘very effective,’ in an interview with The Washington Post Friday.
‘The quality of the link is excellent,’ Fedorov, 31, told the paper from an undisclosed location in the country, in remote interview made possible by a Starlink connection.
‘We are using thousands, in the area of thousands, of terminals with new shipments arriving every other day,’ the official revealed, speaking on how the satellites have proved instrumental in helping citizens and leaders communicate as the Kremlin continues its large-scale attacks in cities across Ukraine.
Shortly after the invasion, Fedorov, who also serves as the country’s vice-prime minister, had sent a tweet to Musk, asking to be given access to Starlink stations.
Musk, currently valued at $232 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaire‘s Index, responded just hours later: ‘Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals en route.’
Within days, trucks arrived at Ukraine hauling Starlink terminals, as well as adapters providing power via cigarette lighters in cars, or battery packs, and a roaming feature to ensure people are connected while they travel to safety.
Starlink uses thousands of small satellites around 340 miles above the earth’s surface.
Base stations on earth send radio waves up to the satellites, which beam those down to a satellite dish terminal back on the planet.
The aim of the system is to bring internet access to rural and poorly connected parts of the world. It has allowed internet connections to travel quickly, with more speed provided due to travelling through space.
The lower orbit of Starlink also allows signals to travel even faster.
Over 2,000 satellites have been sent up to space so far, and there are plans to launch around 12,000 in total.
The usefulness of the system has now reached into military operations, with the Ukrainian drone armies of ‘Aerorozvidka’ being able to use it to continue communicating with their bases by sending signals from Starlink terminals and using ground stations in neighboring countries, including Poland.
The Aerorozvidka unit was formed by a group of civilian model airplane enthusiasts and those with a background in engineering in 2014 following the outbreak of war in eastern Ukraine.
The group helped to build drones and sensors for the military to monitor the border, and helped to adapt commercially available drones to gather intelligence and even drop homemade explosives.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has termed the missile ‘an ideal weapon’ that flies at 10 times the speed of sound and can overcome air-defence systems.
Hypersonic missiles can be used to deliver conventional warheads, more rapidly and precisely than other missiles. But their capacity to deliver nuclear weapons could add to a country’s threat, increasing the danger of a nuclear conflict.
Russia’s announcement of the missile strike came as Kyiv’s army high command claimed to have killed a fifth Moscow general since the war in Ukraine began.
Lieutenant General Andrey Mordvichev was one of Vladimir Putin’s most senior commanders, in charge of the 8th All-Military Army of the Kremlin’s vast Southern Military District.
Moscow did not initially confirm his death in keeping with most previous claims of the ‘liquidation’ of Generals.
Ukraine now claims to have killed five holding the rank of General. The Ukrainians also claimed that wounded Russian soldiers have filled all hospital facilities in Gomel city in Belarus.
Overnight, Zelensky said Russian forces are blockading his country’s largest cities to wear the population down into submission, but he warned Saturday that the strategy will fail and Moscow will lose in the long run if it doesn’t end its war.
Zelenskyy accused the Kremlin of deliberately creating ‘a humanitarian catastrophe ‘ and appealed for Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet with him, using a huge Moscow stadium rally where Putin lavished praise on Russian forces Friday to illustrate what was at stake.
‘Just picture for yourself that in that stadium in Moscow there are 14,000 dead bodies and tens of thousands more injured and maimed. Those are the Russian costs throughout the invasion,’ Zelenskyy said in a nightly video address to the nation recorded outside the presidential office in Kyiv.
The rally took place as Russia has faced heavier-than-expected losses on the battlefield and increasingly authoritarian rule at home. The event was surrounded by suspicions it was a Kremlin-manufactured display of patriotism. Russian police have detained thousands of people from protests of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Fighting continued on multiple fronts in Ukraine. In the besieged port city of Mariupol, the site of some of the war’s greatest suffering.