SpaceX is currently focusing on improving Starlink’s cybersecurity amid reports of jammed signals near combat zones in Ukraine. Elon Musk said that it wouldn’t block Russian websites “unless at gunpoint,” though.
SpaceX kept Elon Musk’s earlier promise to provide Internet service through Starlink by delivering at least one truckload of terminals. At last report, some terminals had been deployed in areas that were hit hard by combat.
Musk said that SpaceX is shifting resources to focus on cybersecurity for Starlink even though it might mean delays for Starship and the more capable Starlink V2 satellites. Although he didn’t specify that the signal jamming was occurring in Ukraine, he said that a software update could fix the problem.
According to Musk, SpaceX also issued a software update to improve the Starlink terminals’ power consumption so each one could theoretically be powered by a car cigarette lighter. Some observers worried that it would come with a tradeoff in the terminals’ performance, though others said that mobility and ability to function even during power outages was equally important to Ukraine’s military.
One user who is presumably in Kyiv posted a speed test that seemed to indicate that Starlink can get average speeds of between 190 and 200 Mbps.
Musk warned that Starlink may be the only non-Russian communications option that is available in parts of Ukraine and users should use their terminals with caution.
Meanwhile, Musk refused to block Russian websites like RT.com and Sputnik at the request of some governments. Although he did not specify which governments requested it, he says Ukraine hadn’t and referred to himself as a “free speech absolutist.” Musk implied that no government has issued an outright mandate to block Russian websites yet.
Russia was accused of using these sites to spread propaganda and false information. The sites became targets of Denial-of-Service attacks and hacks organized by the hacker group Anonymous. Some of the hacked sites briefly displayed prominent notices that the Russian government was using them to spread misinformation about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Despite his refusal to block Russian news sites, Musk has expressed support for Ukraine, including calling on the United States to increase oil and gas production to reduce reliance on Russian exports. In some parts of the United States, the price at the pump topped $5 per gallon.
He also mocked the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, for saying that Russia would stop selling rocket engines to the United States and suggesting that space agencies could rely on “broomsticks” again. SpaceX manufactures its own “Raptor” rocket engines for use on its reusable Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets and is working on a version that will be used on Starship when it becomes operational. It expects to conduct an orbital test of Starship as soon as it is approved by the FAA, which is taking longer than expected.
The Starship spacecraft could eventually be used to speed up launches of the upgraded Starlink V2 launches once it becomes fully operational. The U.S. Air Force has already issued contracts to study its potential for use in the delivery of cargo, including humanitarian aid, around the world.