The war in Ukraine is also played in space. With the deployment of the Starlink stations of the American billionaire Elon Musk. And with the impossibility for Soyuz to keep its commitments with ArianeSpace.
The news came via Twitter. On Saturday morning, the Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister in charge of digital Mykhailo Fedoro addressed the American billionaire Elon Musk in these terms: “While you are trying to colonize Mars, Russia is trying to occupy Ukraine! If your rockets land successfully from space, Russian rockets attack Ukrainian civilians! We ask you to provide Ukraine with Starlink stations.”
The answer came a few hours later: “Starlink service is operational [Editor’s note: over Ukraine]. More terminals are on the way.
The information war
Starlink, a subsidiary of American billionaire Elon Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX, is a constellation of satellites providing access to the Internet. To date, some 1,800 telecommunication satellites have been deployed in low earth orbit. 12,000 are to be deployed by 2025.
We understand the interest of these spacecrafts in a country at war where the terrestrial infrastructures are -or risk to be- destroyed by bombs. We know that information (and disinformation) is a formidable weapon of war. Hence the need to control access to the means of mass communication. And, in particular to social networks.
Soyuz and Arianespace
The war in Ukraine and the heavy economic sanctions targeting Russia fall at a bad time for ArianeSpace. Indeed, two launches were planned.
March 4, 2022: a Soyuz rocket for OneWeb is scheduled to take off from Baikonur. This constellation of 650 telecommunication satellites comparable to Starlink is implemented by the American Greg Wyler.
The other launch was scheduled for April 6, 2022 from Kourou, French Guiana. It was to launch two Galileo satellites (radio navigation system identical to the American GPS). But we now know that it will not take place. Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russian space agency Roskosmos, announced it via Twitter: “In response to EU sanctions against our companies, Roskosmos is suspending cooperation with European partners to organize space launches from the Kuru cosmodrome and withdrawing its personnel, including the consolidated launch crew, from French Guiana.
Russia has withdrawn 87 nationals present at the Kourou space center. However, “without them, no launch campaign can take place,” said the magazine Sky and Space, recalling that Arianespace and RosKosmos have been working together since 2011 to launch satellites via the rocket Souyouz.
The European Commissioner for Space, Thierry Breton, reacted to the decision of Roscomos with a statement saying that the Galileo program continues.
Threats to the ISS
In space, there is also the International Space Station permanently occupied by an international crew. Here again, the Russian collaboration is important, if not decisive.
The head of the Russian agency RosKosmos did not hide the weight of his country in this adventure. He even warned NASA that without the Russian Progress spacecraft, the ISS might fall out of orbit and perhaps crash to earth. By specifying that the ISS station does not fly over Russia!
Other projects between Europe and Russia are underway, like the Exomars mission. But they are largely understood by the war in Ukraine.
@elonmusk, while you try to colonize Mars — Russia try to occupy Ukraine! While your rockets successfully land from space — Russian rockets attack Ukrainian civil people! We ask you to provide Ukraine with Starlink stations and to address sane Russians to stand.
— Mykhailo Fedorov (@FedorovMykhailo) February 26, 2022
⚡ «В ответ на санкции Евросоюза в отношении наших предприятий Роскосмос приостанавливает сотрудничество с европейскими партнерами по организации космических запусков с космодрома Куру и отзывает свой персонал, включая сводный стартовый расчёт, из Французской Гвианы», — @Rogozin. pic.twitter.com/KLm2UQsIEz
— РОСКОСМОС (@roscosmos) February 26, 2022