Ukraine says Elon Musk’s Starlink has been ‘very effective’ in countering Russia. China is paying close attention

Since the start of the Russian invasion, the US and its NATO and European allies have sent Ukraine security, economic, and humanitarian aid worth tens of billions of dollarsAssistance to the embattled Ukrainians has come from the general public and private sector too. One of the most notable contributions has been that of Starlink, a satellite communication system run by Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

SpaceX says it has delivered 15,000 Starlink kits to Ukraine since late February. The devices provide the Ukrainian military with a resilient and reliable means of communication. Ukrainian troops have used them to coordinate counterattacks or call in artillery support, while Ukrainian civilians have used the system to stay in touch with loved ones inside and outside of the country.

Besieged Ukrainian troops in the plant in Mariupol Azovstal steelworks were only able to communicate with Kyiv and the world because they had a Starlink device.

https://www.businessinsider.com/

SpaceX Sent Starlink Internet Terminals to Ukraine

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk sent a truckload of Starlink antennas — which can be used to connect to the company’s satellite-based internet service — to Ukraine this week, responding to a plea from the country’s vice prime minister amid fears that Ukrainians could lose internet access if Russia continues its attacks on communication infrastructure. But using satellite services can be dangerous in wartime, as evidenced by a history of states using satellite signals to geolocate and target enemies, cybersecurity experts said.

If an adversary has a specialized plane aloft, it can detect [a satellite] signal and home in on it,” Nicholas Weaver, a security researcher at the University of California at Berkeley, explained via email.

It isn’t necessarily easy, but the Russians have a lot of practice on tracking various signal emitters in Syria and responding. Starlink may work for the moment, but anyone setting a [Starlink] dish up in Ukraine needs to consider it as a potential giant target.

In short: “It may be useful, but for safety’s sake you don’t want to set it (or really any distinctive emitter) up in Ukraine anywhere close to where you would not want a Russian bomb dropping,” Weaver said.
Shortly after this story was originally published, Musk also weighed in on Twitter, saying “Important warning: Starlink is the only non-Russian communications system still working in some parts of Ukraine, so probability of being targeted is high. Please use with caution.”
He went on to advise users in Ukraine to “turn on Starlink only when needed and place antenna away as far away from people as possible,” and to “place light camouflage over antenna to avoid visual detection.”

China Now Launches More Rockets Than Anyone In The World

In recent weeks, China‘s space program has made news by revealing some of its long-term ambitions for spaceflight. These include establishing an Earth-Moon space economic zone by 2050, which, if successful, could allow the country to begin to dictate the rules of behavior for future space exploration. Some have questioned whether China, which has flown six human spaceflights in the last 16 years, can really build a large low-Earth space station, send taikonauts to the Moon, return samples from Mars, and more in the coming decade or two. But what seems clear is that the country’s authoritarian government has long-term plans and is taking steps toward becoming a global leader in space exploration.

By one important metric—orbital launchesChina has already reached this goal. In 2018, the country set a goal of 35 orbital launches and ended up with 39 launch attempts. That year, the United States (29 flights) and Russia (20) trailed China, according to Space Launch Report. It marked the first time China led the world in the number of successful orbital launchesThis year, China is set to pace the world again. Through Sunday, the country has launched 27 orbital missions, followed by Russia (19), and the United States (16). Although nearly a month and a half remain in this year, a maximum of six additional orbital launches are likely from the United States in 2019.

To be fair, China’s space launch program has not been without hiccups. The country’s space program is still trying to bring its large Long March 5 vehicle back into service after a catastrophic failure during just its second mission, in July 2017. And the country had three failures in 2018 and 2019, compared to just one in the United States and Russia combined.

The United States has taken a step back this year in part due to decreased activity by SpaceX. The company launched a record 21 missions last year but has so far launched 11 rockets in 2019. A flurry of missions remains possible in the next six weeks for the company, including a space station resupply mission in early December, a commercial satellite launch, and additional Starlink flights.

Another big factor has been a slow year for United Launch Alliance. The Colorado-based company has launched just two Delta IV-Medium rockets this year, one Delta IV-Heavy, and a single Atlas V mission. The company may launch Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft before the end of 2019, giving the Atlas V rocket a second launch. It is possible that Rocket Lab, which has flown its Electron rocket from New Zealand five times in 2019 and is planning at least one more mission before the end of the year, will have more launches than United Launch Alliance for the first time. Sometime next year, Rocket Lab should also begin to add to the US tally for orbital launches as it opens a new facility at Wallops Island, Virginia.

Source: https://arstechnica.com/