What Are Starlink Terminals? Elon Musk's SpaceX Internet Arrives in Ukraine

Elon Musk has actioned his promise to Ukraine by delivering SpaceX Starlink terminals to the country, which is currently being invaded by Russia.

On Monday Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov tweeted an image of Starlink terminals arriving in Ukraine. The terminals will be used to access Starlink satellites in orbit around Earth and provide internet to the war-stricken country.

A recent report from NetBlocks showed that Ukraine has been experiencing significant internet disruptions since Thursday, February 24, 2022, when the Russian invasion began. These disruptions have been traced across much of the country including its capital city, Kyiv, and second-largest city Kharkiv.

Musk Tweeted "Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals en route" on February 26 in response to a tweet from Fedorov requesting Starlink terminals.

What Is Starlink?

Starlink is a constellation of satellites that aims to provide high-speed, low-latency broadband internet across the globe. SpaceX says that the low-Earth orbit Starlink system provides video calls, online gaming, streaming, and other high data rate activities that aren't usually possible with satellite internet.

One place Starlink may be particularly useful is in regions where conventional internet connection is unfeasible, such as rural areas.

The Starlink system consists of over 2,000 satellites the deployment of which began in 2018. The latest launch occurred on February 3 and placed 49 new satellites into orbit. As Newsweek previously reported, the ultimate plan for SpaceX is to deploy tens of thousands of low-Earth orbit units.

In August 2021 Elon Musk tweeted that 100,000 Starlink terminals had been shipped, allowing customers to access the constellation and the internet service it provides.

The Starlink kit comes with a terminal that is designed to withstand a range of temperatures and conditions such as extreme heat and cold, gale-force winds, snow, rain and hail.

The kit as seen delivered to Ukraine also includes bases that allow the terminal—which looks like a white satellite dish and is 19 inches long and 12 inches wide—to be deployed at ground level.

Because the system already comes connected to the internet and can adjust itself to find the optimum connection to the constellation the set-up procedure is simple. According to Musk himself, the set-up instructions for the system are simply: "Plug in socket. Point at sky."

The Tesla founder and SpaceX owner tweeted: "Looks like a thin, flat, round UFO on a stick. Starlink Terminal has motors to self-adjust optimal angle to view sky."

According to website CNET, countries currently serviced by Starlink internet include; the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Ireland, Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, Portugal, Australia and New Zealand.

The system is also in place in the United States where the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) initially granted SpaceX the operation of 1 million terminals, according to the Tesmanian.com. In August 2020, SpaceX requested that the FCC up this to 5 million terminals due to overwhelming demand.

The Starlink system has not been without its critics. In February last year several lobby groups for small Internet Service Providers urged the FCC to investigate if SpaceX can deliver on its internet promises, arstechnica.com reported.

The project has also been criticized by astronomers who warn that its satellite constellations could ruin our view of the night sky and could be "extremely impactful" to astronomy and future scientific discoveries.

University of California, Davis Professor Tony Tyson told the Independent:"With tens of thousands of low-Earth orbit satellites, we find that generally, no combination of mitigations can completely avoid the impacts of satellite trails on the science programs of the coming generation of optical astronomy facilities."

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Ukraine War Musk
Firefighters, left, tackle a fire after an attack on the Ukrainian town of Chuguiv on February 24, 2022. Elon Musk, right, attends the 2017 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 26, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. Musk has sent Starlink terminals to Ukraine after the country experienced internet outages. ARIS MESSINIS/ Pascal Le Segretain/GETTY