Russian President Vladimir Putin has instructed space agency Roscosmos and the Agency for Strategic Initiatives (ASI) to present proposals for creating extremely low-earth orbiting satellites by December 1 this year.
The satellite constellation is intended to rival Elon Musk-owned SpaceX's Starlink that is being used by Ukrainian forces for encrypted broadband internet enabling secure battlefield communication. It is difficult to jam due to the the sheer number of satellites in the orbit and a communication protocol that changes frequently.
The space agency and ASI will have to manufacture prototypes of such devices for testing, after which it will be necessary to determine the feasibility of forming a separate program for the development of extremely low orbits (up to 200 kms from earth), while assessing the required volume and sources of financing for the project, the Russian MoD’s media channel, TvZvezda reported
The head of Roscosmos, Yuri Borisov, and the CEO of the Agency for Strategic Initiatives, Svetlana Chupsheva, have been appointed responsible for the project; they will be required to report on the results of their work by December 1, 2023, a TvZvezda report said.
In June this year, Vladimir Putin, at a meeting with Yuri Borisov, emphasized that it is necessary to attract private investment for launching a low-orbit constellation of satellites.
Starlink satellites only require a backpack-sized antenna to be set up anywhere in the target area. Thus Ukrainian forces are able to have broadband internet nor only in the battlefield but also in bombed-out building where all other means of communication such as mobile towers have been destroyed.
Starlink satellites are the size of a study-table and hover a mere 125 kilometers above the earth. “We’ve got more than 11,000 Starlink stations (portable receiver-terminals) and they help us in our everyday fight on all the fronts,” Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s vice prime minister, was quoted as saying by POLITICO. “We’re ready, even if there is no light, no fixed internet, through generators using Starlink, to renew any connection in Ukraine.”