Tag Archives: Starlink

SpaceX Curbed Ukraine’s Use Of Starlink For Drones

SpaceX has taken steps to prevent Ukraine’s military from using the company’s Starlink satellite internet service for controlling drones in the region during the country’s war with Russia, SpaceX’s president said Wednesday, Reuters reported.

According to Reuters, SpaceX’s Starlink satellite service, which has provided Ukraine’s military with broadband communications in its defense against Russia’s military, was “never never meant to be weaponized,” Gwynn Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer, said during a conference in Washington, D.C. “However, Ukrainians have leveraged it in ways that were unintentional and not part of any agreement,” she said.

Reuters also reported that using Starlink with drones went beyond the scope of an agreement SpaceX has with the Ukrainian government, Shotwell said, adding the contract was intended for humanitarian purposes such as providing broadband internet to hospitals, banks, and families affected by Russia’s invasion.

“We know the military is using them for comms, and that’s ok,” she said, “But our intent was never to have them use it for offensive purposes.”

BBC News reported that after invading its neighbor in February of last year, Russia quickly looked to close down local internet services and block social media. The first Starlink dishes – or terminals – were provided to Ukraine soon after, in an effort to ensure people stayed connected.

According to the BBC, they work by connecting satellites in low-Earth orbit.

In October, Mr. Musk signaled that he could not continue funding Starlink in Ukraine, before rapidly reversing his position.

In a tweet last week, the billionaire again addressed the issue and acknowledged that there was a dilemma at work.

“SpaceX Starlink has become the connectivity backbone of Ukraine all the way up to the front lines. This is the damned if you do part,” he wrote.

“However, we are not allowing Starlink to be used for long-range drone strikes. This is the damned if you don’t part.”

Politico reported that just days after the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which came with an array of cyberattacks against the country’s infrastructure, SpaceX moved to connect Ukraine to its satellite internet network, allowing online access without the need for fiber cables.

According to Politico, Mr. Musk raised concerns in Kyiv and among Western allies last October after he tweeted a series of Kremlin talking points, presenting them as a peace plan. Later in October, Musk also said he was no longer willing to pay for the Starlink internet terminals in Ukraine, asking the U.S. Department of Defense to take over responsibility instead.

To me, it sounds like two separate problems are happening. One, it appears that Starlink is happy to have the Ukraine military use their satellites for communications purposes, but not for long-range drone strikes.

Two, some of this problem falls on Elon Musk, who may have been funding Starlink for use by the Ukraine military. But now, after spending a huge chunk of his own money on buying Twitter, Mr. Musk appears to want to remove himself from the obligation he chose in regards to Starlink and Ukraine. It is concerning that a billionaire asked the U.S. Department of Defense to take over the responsibility of paying for Ukraine’s access to Starlink.

SpaceX And T-Mobile Team Up To “End Mobile Dead Zones”

SpaceX founder Elon Musk and T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert said their companies are working to “end mobile dead zones,” and will launch a new mobile service enabled by Starlink second-generation satellites and T-Mobile bandwidth, CNBC reported.

According to CNBC, Starlink is comprised of a network of satellites that SpaceX has launched into low Earth orbit, and designed to deliver high-speed internet in remote locations across the globe. SpaceX has launched more than 2,700 satellites to support this network.

Elon Musk tweeted: “Starlink V2, launching next year, will transmit direct to mobile phones, eliminating dead zones worldwide.”

CNBC reported about what T-Mobile users will be able to do with Starlink:

T-Mobile users will be able to use messaging, MMS and certain messaging apps, from remote places across the lower 48 states, Alaska, Puerto Rico and Hawaii and even some remote points in the water.

Eventually, the service will work with voice, Sievert said. T-Mobile plans to include the service in its most popular mobile plans but did not disclose specific pricing.

Musk said the service will work with Starlink’s second generation satellites, which have very large antennae and will be able to transmit directly to a cell or mobile phone.

The service won’t require mobile users to get a new phone. Musk said in or after a natural disaster, even if all the cell towers are taken out, the planned service should work.

The Wall Street Journal reported that SpaceX and T-Mobile said that the new service will use Starlink satellites that SpaceX plans to launch and provide connections to U.S. consumers using wireless spectrum controlled by T-Mobile. The companies said they plan to start with a test of text-messaging services in select markets before the end of 2023.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the new service will use Starlink satellites as cellular towers and transmit directly back to devices on the ground. T-Mobile will set aside a slice of its midband spectrum for these connections. It will use the airwave frequencies in a way that can also be used on its ground-based network.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that some competing satellite operators have raised concerns about the size of that fleet or have said they oppose it. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, a SpaceX customer, has registered worries that the satellites could cause more collisions in orbit.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the Federal Communications Commission (FTC) would need to sign off on SpaceX’s use of the T-Mobile spectrum. And would need to also secure additional permission from the agency.

Overall, I think it would be a good idea to find a way to make it easier – and less expensive – for people in rural areas to access the internet and/or use their smartphones more efficiently. I’m not sure that Starlink is the right solution, considering the potential veto from regulators.

ArsTechnica reported that the V2 satellites are too large for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket’s payload fairing, which is 5 meters across. The full-size Starlink V2 satellites will need to wait for the much larger Starship rocket to come online.