Elon Musk'd have shut down Starlink to avoid a Ukrainian attack on the Russian fleet

According to the interview, parts of which were released by CNN, Musk's decision was driven by fear that Moscow would respond to such an attack with nuclear weapons

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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Elon Musk'd have shut down Starlink to avoid a Ukrainian attack on the Russian fleet
© Win McNamee / Staff Getty Images News

Elon Musk would have shut down the Starlink satellites to avoid an attack by Ukraine against the Russian fleet, according to the biography written by Walter Isaacson and entitled Elon Musk, due out on September 12. According to the interview, parts of which were released by CNN, Musk's decision was driven by fear that Moscow would respond to such an attack with nuclear weapons.

According to CNN: "This reveals the privileged position the SpaceX founder has found himself in since the large-scale invasion. Willingly or not, he had become a power broker that Washington could not ignore." In February 2022, Musk had agreed to supply millions of dollars with Starlink satellite terminals to Ukraine.

Made by SpaceX, they have become crucial to Ukraine's military operations.

What is starlink

Starlink is a satellite constellation currently under construction by private American aerospace manufacturer SpaceX for low-latency global broadband satellite internet access.

The constellation will consist of thousands of mass-produced miniaturized satellites, placed in low Earth orbit (LEO), working in concert with ground-based transceivers. SpaceX also intends to commercialize some of its satellites for military, scientific and exploratory purposes.

Concerns have been raised about the long-term effects and damage of space debris resulting from the release of thousands of satellites into orbits above 1000 km. Subsequently it was decided to use orbits around 550 km, which are relatively safer because they allow the debris to decay in less time.

Other criticisms relate to a possible negative impact on observational astronomy activities, which SpaceX has announced it wants to resolve. As of June 2020, one of the constellation's satellites has an experimental coating specifically designed to make it less reflective and therefore less visible to astronomical observations from the ground.

The total cost from design to build to full operation, over a 10-year period, was estimated by SpaceX in May 2018 to be $10 billion.

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