Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, came to the rescue over the weekend after Ukraine requested help providing internet access to the country as Russian forces continue to besiege it.
Mykhailo Fedorov, the vice prime minister of Ukraine and minister of digital transformation, reached out to Musk via Twitter on Saturday seeking the billionaire entrepreneur’s assistance via Starlink, a SpaceX satellite broadband internet service.
“@elonmusk, while you try to colonize Mars — Russia try to occupy Ukraine! While your rockets successfully land from space — Russian rockets attack Ukrainian civil people! We ask you to provide Ukraine with Starlink stations and to address sane Russians to stand,” Fedorov said.
Musk quickly responded, “Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals en route.”
“Starlink terminals are coming to Ukraine! Thank you @elonmusk, thank you everyone, who supported Ukraine!” Fedorov responded.
For embattled Ukraine, internet connectivity is vital for victory against Russia. Satellite internet connectivity will allow the Ukrainian government, military forces, and citizens to remain connected with one another and the world as the war damages internet infrastructure, particularly in rural areas away from Ukraine’s cities.
Reuters reported on Saturday that internet connectivity in Ukraine has become a significant problem, especially in southern and eastern areas of the country where fighting has been heaviest thus far.
What is Starlink?
Branding itself as the “world’s most advanced broadband internet system,” Starlink uses a network of satellites in low-earth orbit to provide internet connectivity to communities worldwide. Because Starlink satellites orbit earth much closer than geostationary satellites traditionally used for satellite internet, the connection Starlink provides is faster and more reliable than traditional satellite internet service.
In order to connect to Starlink, users need the appropriate terminal receiver, more of which are being shipped to Ukraine as Musk confirmed.
However, more satellite activity could pose a problem for Ukrainians. As John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at the Citizen Lab, explained, “Russia has big electronic ears,” which means that “users’ uplink transmissions become beacons… for airstrikes.”