SpaceX quickly jumped into action when Ukraine’s vice prime minister asked for help keeping internet connectivity in the country during Russia’s invasion. Now, SpaceX is continuing to assist, pushing updates to improve connectivity options and versatility through continued attacks on the country’s infrastructure.
Starlink was already the go-to answer in response to large-scale infrastructure outages, but it became truly one of the only options with suspected cyberattacks against Viasat’s network that provided broadband to parts of Ukraine.
After sending truckloads of Starlink user terminals to Ukraine, Musk urged caution in their use, as a highly visible Starlink terminal could easily become a target.
While some were confused about how to use the dishes with caution, he quickly responded to replies and recommended tips for using the terminals safely and keeping them hidden. Here are some of the recommendations:
- Turn on terminal only when needed
- Keep terminal away from people
- Use light camouflage to avoid visual detection
- Spray paint could work, so long as there are no metal particles
In addition to these tips people on the ground should follow, SpaceX is shipping a software update to improve the user terminal’s versatility in the country
Software update coming to Starlink
In order to help combat these power issues, and make Starlink more versatile as a communication and connectivity device, SpaceX is updating the Starlink software.
The first major change to the software will be a decrease in peak power consumption. While that may sound like a bad thing, it will actually allow the devices to be powered off of a simple car cigarette lighter, according to Musk. This would be much more convenient than requiring a totally separate generator or even the “solar panels + battery pack” Musk previously recommended.
Additionally, the antenna’s tracking has been updated so that it can maintain connectivity on a moving vehicle. The use of Starlink on moving vehicles, be it cars, boats, or planes, has long been discussed. While SpaceX has been testing and working towards a more mobile-focused product for a while, the company has clearly fast-tracked the software to help keep Ukraine connected however possible.
These two software changes should make it easier for those in Ukraine to stay connected.