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SpaceX's Starlink satellite internet service is capable of providing internet coverage to thousands of people through a single terminal revealed the company's chief Mr. Elon Musk earlier today. SpaceX, in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has shipped thousands of terminals to Ukraine, and these have been used by the local population to circumnavigate communications blackouts caused by the Russian military due to the invasion of Ukraine.
Each dish, according to Musk, is capable of connecting to a cellular tower, which in turn can spread the signal to thousands of users. Starlink has come under fire from Russia at the United Nations, with the country warning that it might retaliate militarily against SpaceX's satellites.
Starlink Provided "Decisive" Battlefield Advantages In Ukraine Says Musk
Musk's latest comments came after he landed in yet another bout of controversy after suggesting that the disputed territory of Crimea should become a part of Ukraine as a solution to the devastating Russian invasion of Ukraine that has caused massive losses of life.
In a series of fresh Twitter posts, the executive revealed that the terminals his company shipped to Ukraine, with help from the U.S. government, have enabled the Ukrainian military to keep its communication lines open after Ukrainian infrastructure was damaged by Russia earlier this year.
His biggest revelation outlined that each Starlink dish is capable of connecting to cellular towers and providing them with Internet connectivity. These towers can then be used to serve thousands of customers.
There are ~25k terminals in Ukraine, but each terminal can be used to provide an Internet uplink to a cell phone tower, so potentially several thousand people can be served by a single terminal
In response to a Tweet quoting a Ukrainian soldier claiming that Starlink was a huge factor in turning the tide of the invasion against Russia, Musk also confirmed that the equipment had been used by the Ukrainian military and that it had in fact "provided a decisive battlefield advantage".
This bit is particularly important as Russia's representatives to the United Nations had warned last month that civilian space assets being used in the war might be targetted by the Russian military. They had directly called out U.S.-owned assets and stated that:
Namely, the use by the United States and its allies of the elements of civilian, including commercial, infrastructure in outer space for military purposes. It seems like our colleagues do not realize that such actions in fact constitute indirect involvement in military conflicts. Quasi-civilian infrastructure may become a legitimate target for retaliation.
After the report, Musk stated that Starlink is for peaceful purposes only, and throughout the curse of the war, satellite imaging provided by Maxar - another U.S. company - has also aided the Ukrainians in their defense against the aggression.
Russia also possesses the capability to shoot down satellites through its System A-235 PL-19 Nudo ballistic missile which is capable of not only taking out spacecraft but also missiles that are headed toward Moscow.
This missile successfully shot down Russia's Kosmos 1408 satellite in 2021 at an estimated altitude of close to 500 kilometers. This is in the same range used by the Starlink satellites, but the Starlink satellites are significantly smaller than the Kosmos satellite and number in the thousands. Therefore the only real danger to the constellation is the possible debris that might be generated in the event that Russia does decide to escalate and target U.S.-owned civilian infrastructure.