SpaceX’s Ability to Thwart Russian Jamming of Starlink Called “Eye Watering”

Starlink Premium antenna. (Credit: SpaceX)

Popular Mechanics reports that the Pentagon is studying how SpaceX was able to quickly thwart attempts to jam Starlink satellite broadband receivers the company sent to Ukraine to help the nation defend itself against a Russian invasion.

The U.S. Department of Defense is casting envious eyes on Elon Musk’s SpaceX after the aerospace company swiftly responded to an “electronic warfare attack” in Ukraine last month. SpaceX donated Starlink terminals to Ukraine to help the country stay connected in wartime, but Russian signal-jamming attempted to thwart those plans. The notoriously bureaucratic Pentagon says it’s a model for responding to threats that it can’t currently match—but desperately needs to…..

According to SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk, some Starlink terminals near the front line in Ukraine were experiencing jamming, presumably from Russian military electronic warfare units. Musk later tweeted that the company quickly “reprioritized to cyber defense & overcoming signal jamming,” and issued a fix within a day, broadcast to all Starlink terminals. The fix reportedly involved changing a single line of software code.

A one-day turnaround for software fixes is par for the course for commercial businesses, especially startups, but not for the government. Dave Tremper, director of electronic warfare for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, told attendees at an industry conference that SpaceX’s handling of Russian jamming in Ukraine was “eye-watering.”

SpaceX has sent 5,000 Starlink terminals to Ukraine, including 3,667 donated by SpaceX and 1,333 purchased by the U.S. Agency for International Development.