After a plea tweeted at the billionaire from vice Prime Minister of Ukraine Mykhailo Fedorov, Elon Musk redirected his near-2,000 Starlink satellites to support the country during the ongoing invasion by Russia.
Yesterday saw a truckload of Starlink satellite dishes delivered to Ukraine, with Fedorov tweeting a photo and a message of thanks to Musk.
Those satellites are likely going to government offices, but what about the average Ukrainian citizen? Well, at least one person – Oleg Kutkov, an engineer in Kyiv – has already managed to connect to Starlink using his own satellite dish, proving that despite having no Starlink service at all until a matter of days ago, the country is now firmly on the celestial web.
“I honestly didn’t believe that it would work. I thought there might be some problems with obstructions, might be some problems with my Dishy,” Kutkov told The Verge, referencing SpaceX’s nickname for the equipment, Dishy McFlatFace.
“But no, it just connected. I got really good speed, really good connectivity.”
While Ukraine currently has good internet coverage, Starlink – which provides internet using a constellation of satellites in low-Earth orbit, rather than cables – is being suggested as a potential backup plan if Russia targets communications systems.
“It's possible that the local internet infrastructure will be destroyed,” Kutkov told Insider. “This would be the emergency state and time for my Dishy.”
Just yesterday, Russian airstrikes targeted a television tower in Kyiv – a sign that the invading forces may try to disrupt Ukrainian communication systems. Meanwhile, NetBlocks, a watchdog organization that monitors cybersecurity and internet freedom, has already reported internet outages in the Luhansk Oblast, where Russian forces have recently been seen facing down citizens.
Kutkov might be alone in his roaming of Starlink for now – he bought his dish over eBay back in December, not expecting that an invasion might prompt his country’s sudden connection to the network. Originally, he only wanted to reverse engineer “Dishy” to learn more about the underlying technology, he explained, and it’s already been tinkered with so much that it’s unable to scan the sky. Kutkov doesn’t have a mount either – he ran his test by simply sticking the dish out of his window.
Nevertheless, he says, his experiment was a success.
“I thought that I could test it and report to everyone that, ‘Yeah, this is working in Ukraine. So it’s good to go,’” he told The Verge. But, he added, “from a technical point of view, it’s possible” that the Starlink satellites might themselves become targets for Russian airstrikes.
Despite the danger, though, he says he has no plans to leave Kyiv – he was forced to leave Crimea when Russia invaded in 2014, he told The Verge, and says he's not moving again.
“I will be very, very careful,” he said.
“We’re going to stand and protect our property, and I think we’re going to win.”