As you know, Space X does more than build rockets to put payloads and people into orbit for NASA (and others). One of its ventures is Starlink, a large and growing network of small satellites who’s purpose is to provide internet access to people everywhere including remote areas. The huge number of low earth orbit satellites that will be up there when the network is complete has raised concerns – vast as space is there is a growing concern about how much stuff is up there and the problem of what happens when things collide in space. The ISS itself sometimes has to take evasive action from both active (not Starlink) satellites and also space “junk.”
But, getting to the issue at hand which is broadband access to not just cities but rural areas the more options for people the more competition among internet access providers. At least that’s basic business theory. That can be a good thing. And since NASA approves each batch of deployment of more Starlink satellites they make sure they are in an orbit where anything in a higher orbit is safe from collision. (This gets too complicated to go into here) The point is that Space X has provided high speed internet to a lot of places that either didn’t have it, or helped make it more affordable.
At issue is that one person calls the shots when it comes to Starlink. Elon Musk. He controls Space X, and therefore Starlink, and let’s just say he’s been “tempermental” when it comes to the war in Ukraine. Specifically the use of his Starlink network by Ukraine allows not just its citizens can get news and stay in touch with relatives and friends, it also provides a highly needed capability to Ukraine’s military to communicate. That includes identifying targets. Russian forces, artillery and missile sites, ammo depots and such.
As this article shows, Musk has put his foot down at times to block Ukraine’s military from using Starlink. There are several points made in the article. The Ukrainian military has relied on Starlink more than they would like, and have tried to obtain what Starlink provide via other services. Unfortunately there is no other system that gives them the same reliability and speed to identify and attack targets. In a battlefield situation twenty minutes vs. one minute is an eternity. So there’s that. Another issue is that early on Musk had qualms about Crimea, as in Ukraine wanting to reclaim what is after all part of Ukraine. Russia’s takeover of Crimea has never been recognized by the U.N. and most countries.
But their claim that it’s Russia’s is good enough for Musk. So much so he floated a D.O.A. “peace plan” last year that would “end the war” if Ukraine would agree to give up and let Russia keep Crimea – and other disputed Ukrainian territory. A sort of, “Come Ukraine, just let Putin have a whole bunch of what he wants, and ignore how he illegally seized big chunks for your country, killed thousands of your citizens, caused billions in economic damage etc. Give a ruthless dictator with delusions of rebuilding the USSR a break.” His fee fees seem to have been a tad bit butt-hurt when Ukraine told him “No” and if you recall last year there was a question about who would pay the cost of ensuring Starlink coverage over Ukraine.
As it turns out even though the criticism of Musk got him to back down and stick to his promise that he’d make sure service continued it wasn’t quite a hundred percent. Some restrictions were enacted, including using the Starlink network to help target certain places and things. Crimea, and Russian naval vessels!
Behind the scenes there have been concerns expressed and not just by Ukraine about relying on not just one private citizen but someone know for shall we say some eccentric behavior. And that was being talked about in world capitols long before Musk went and bought a huge international social media platform and wrecked its financial value and negatively impacted its service!
Keep in mind that Musk’s roots are South African and that country has maintained a strong and supportive relationship with Putin. Why? Makes no sense to me but more importantly a lot of world leaders who are a whole lot smarter than I am. Yes, given that Musk provided NASA a way to get people back and forth to the ISS and cut Russia out of the mix means is relationship with Putin is complicated. From where I sit it sometimes seems like Musk wants to keep all his options open, including with Russia. So at times he’s tried to interfere in Ukraine to “make it a fair fight” or some such nonsense. To which this ole grunt says bull-sh*t! War is ugly. As ugly as humans get but sometimes one has no choice but to fight back and engage in all out war. If one has to be fought, the sooner it’s over the better.
And ONE private citizen, not even from a country of one of the combatants has NO goddamned business inserting himself/herself into trying to “make it an even fight.”
Musk needs to stick to providing the ability of his companies to make electric vehicles and rockets, and leave geopolitical stuff to others. He needs to stay in those lanes, and the hell OUT of diplomatic and war fighting ones.