The unprovoked Russian aggression against Ukraine has caused a lot of turbulence around the globe. And many industries, willingly or not, got impacted by the invasion. As one of the strategic sectors, the space industry has significantly impacted the flow of warfare activities, with space entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos speaking out against the aggression and providing their support to Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the war activities have badly hit Max Polyakov, a space entrepreneur of Ukrainian origin, as many of his business activities were concentrated in Ukraine. Yet, he has significantly contributed to the successes the Ukrainian army shows on the battlefield.
Ukraine Needs Data: Commercial Satellites Coalition and Max Polyakov
At the beginning of the war, Max Polyakov and his company from the Noosphere Ventures portfolio called for the global satellite imagery providers to share images of Ukrainian territory with the Ukrainian government and the military for a more efficient response to Russian military activities.
He mentioned the dire need for high-quality real-time images, especially from radar satellites, since optical satellites weren’t always as efficient. As Bloomberg reported in their article, this “helped form a coalition of commercial space companies to gather and analyze satellite images and data”. These events set the beginning of the global recognition of satellite technologies as a critical element of modern war.
Satellite Technologies for Connection & Communication
During the initial stages of the war, stable connections and communications between different divisions of Ukrainian defence forces were crucial. That’s when Elon Musk joined the game and collected a lot of positive publicity. Following the request of Ukrainian government officials, Musk announced the availability of Starlink technology in Ukraine. Subsequently, they sent Starlink internet terminals to Ukraine.
At the beginning of the war, this helped ensure a stable internet connection and satellite communication to keep everyone coordinated. Satellite internet is still used by defenders on the frontlines, facilitating drone flights and precision strikes on the enemy.
This use case has proven the value of satellite communications systems during warfare. But there is another, to some extent, even more important use case for satellite technologies during the war. In particular, the one to which Max Polyakov referred at the beginning of March.
Satellite Imagery: Ukrainian SAR Satellite
While Polyakov was the first to emphasize the role of satellite technologies in saving lives, responding to military actions, and helping evacuate people from the warzone, the most unexpected moment occurred when Ukrainians purchased a satellite for the needs of their military.
Half a year into the war, the Ukrainian charity fund has crowdfunded around $15 million for life-saving bayraktars. But the company presented the planned unmanned aerial vehicles to Ukrainians for free. That’s why the fund, the Ministry of Defense and military authorities have decided to purchase a synthetic radar aperture satellite to strengthen Ukrainian capabilities.
Ukraine-born founder of Noosphere Ventures Max Polyakov accompanied the deal and advised the fund on technical aspects of the purchase due to his expertise in the field. Ultimately, Ukrainians purchased a satellite from a Finnish company ICEYE. And the satellite has already proven its efficiency on the battlefield by helping the military to destroy enemy military machines.
Other Ukrainian Satellite Capabilities
Ukraine also received satellite imagery from its western partners. Commercial satellite companies traced the movements of Russian troops even before the beginning of the war. American Cappella Space, led by an Iranian immigrant, published images of the Russian troops near Ukrainian borders before February 24. Similarly, Maxar revealed images captured by their satellites over Ukraine.
Planet Labs was also among the companies that published images of Ukraine before the war broke out and when it was in its hot phase, informing the global community about what was happening in Ukraine and showing the painful consequences of Russian aggression.
Among commercial satellite providers, ICEYE mentioned they had been in contact with different government authorities since the start of the war regarding possible assistance. But with its own satellite, Ukraine has obtained more opportunities to capture the regions the military are most interested in and within a short time so that they can respond effectively.
The war in Ukraine has become the first one to signify the shift from “human resources” to technologies in winning the war. It is common knowledge that he who wants to win has to act smart rather than throw thousands of people to be killed. And while Ukraine has a smaller army than Russia and cannot win with the numbers, the country strongly benefits from technological support.
Whether provided by entrepreneurs like Max Polyakov and Elon Musk or companies like ICEYE, Maxar, EOSDA or Planet Labs, technical advantage and understanding of enemy’s activities help save thousands, if not millions, of lives. That’s an important revelation, and people should put more effort into developing efficient technologies to protect them.