Starlink Helps Ukraine Withstand $650 Million Worth Of Brutal Missile Attacks

Ramish Zafar
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket during a launch earlier this month. Image: SpaceX

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SpaceX's Starlink satellite Internet service enabled Ukrainians to quickly restore connectivity after a recent barrage of cruise missile attacks by Russia pounded several cities including Kyiv. The strikes are described as being one of the largest since the invasion began earlier this year, and they came after the crucial bridge linking Crimea with Russia was sabotaged.

Details of the cruise missile attack and Starlink's role in enabling the Ukrainians to maintain connectivity were shared by Ukraine's vice prime minister and minister of communication Mr. Mykhailo Fedorov earlier today, with the government official stressing that Starlink remained a crucial part of Ukraine's critical infrastructure.

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SpaceX was one of the first companies to ship out its user dishes to Ukraine after the early stages of the Russian invasion that has left thousands dead in its wake and saw the aggressor target Ukraine's critical infrastructure and disrupt communications. The shipments came soon after another satellite internet service in the country was disrupted, and after the terminals reached Ukraine, SpaceX chief Mr. Elon Musk also outlined that his company was prepared for all kinds of potential jamming attempts by the Russians.

Starlink, which uses dishes to connect with satellites orbiting the Earth in low Earth orbit, is different from traditional internet connectivity services such as broadband. This is due to the fact that it relies mostly on satellites, and requires only the dishes and Earth stations to maintain Internet connectivity. Newer spacecraft launched by SpaceX also feature lasers, which aim to reduce the need for the Earth stations as much as possible to ensure that Starlink remains capable of providing coverage in areas where infrastructure might be unavailable or has been destroyed.

SpaceX's Starlink Earth Station in Merrillan, Wisconsin. The company filed for the station's license in September 2019 and the FCC granted its approval in April 2020. Image: darkpenguin22/Reddit

Taking to Twitter, Ukraine's vice prime minister Mr. Mykhailo Fedorov shared that in the aftermath of the devastating cruise missile attack by Russia, Starlink proved crucial in restoring connectivity in important areas.

The government official shared that:

Over 100 cruise missiles attacked 🇺🇦 energy and communications infrastructure. But with Starlink we quickly restored the connection in critical areas. Starlink continues to be an essential part of critical infrastructure.

3:12 PM · Oct 12, 2022 ·Twitter for iPhone

In response, the SpaceX chief who recently drew the ire of the Internet with allegations of supporting Russia in one of the bloodiest European conflicts of this millennium thanked Mr. Fedorov and stated that he was happy to have helped Ukraine.

SpaceX, and satellite imaging company Maxar Technology have been criticized by Russia's representatives to the United Nations, which have accused them of taking sides in an armed conflict. Musk himself has been in the thick of things, after being targetted by the former head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos earlier this year.

However, Starlink's support for Ukraine has remained resolute during the invasion that many analysts now believe might be nearing its end after surprise gains made by the Ukrainian armed forces recently.

The latest cruise missile attack also stands to weaken Russia simply due to the cost of each weapon. with Reuters estimating that each missile costs a whopping $6.5 million. If true, then 100 missiles would imply that Russia has fired more than half a billion dollars worth in just a handful of days. Even going by Moscow's figure of firing more than 70 missiles would imply that it has spent close more than $455 million attacking Ukraine this week. Analysts have also pointed out that Russia is using anti-ship missiles to attack ground targets in Ukraine, insinuating that perhaps the missile inventory is undergoing careful management.

For comparison, a single Tomahawk missile is estimated to cost the U.S. military $2 million according to a 2017 budget document by the Pentagon. Cruise missiles are capable of hitting their targets with precision over a long distance and can be launched from either land, air or sea.

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