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Musk’s SpaceX puts cyber first for satellite internet services as it confronts Russia in Ukraine

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Elon Musk’s SpaceX is shifting its focus toward cyber as Russian signal jamming and security concerns have disrupted the satellite internet services the company is working to provide to Ukraine.

The billionaire entrepreneur said the change in priorities will cause slight delays on other projects involving such things as products to improve its Starlink satellite internet services. The Starlink technology provides high-speed internet through connections to satellites in low-earth orbit.

“Some Starlink terminals near conflict areas were being jammed for several hours at a time,” Mr. Musk said on Twitter on Saturday. “Our latest software update bypasses the jamming. Am curious to see what’s next!”

Signal disruptions are not the only concerns worrying SpaceX. There are widespread fears that the technology could be used by Russians to target and locate Ukrainians as Mr. Musk provided the equipment in response to a request from a Ukrainian government official. Mr. Musk acknowledged those concerns last week and urged people to use Starlink only when needed.

“Important warning: Starlink is the only non-Russian communications system still working in some parts of Ukraine, so probability of being targeted is high,” Mr. Musk said on Twitter last week. “Please use with caution.”

He recommended placing the antenna as far away from people as possible and covering the antenna with light camouflage.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has provided SpaceX an unparalleled opportunity to demonstrate its technology’s capabilities, but there is a personal dimension to the conflict for Mr. Musk, too.

The South African-born entrepreneur who immigrated to America was rejected by Russia when trying to get the concept for SpaceX off the ground. Mr. Musk made two trips to Moscow in 2001 and 2002 seeking to buy an intercontinental ballistic missile but left empty-handed, according to author Ashlee Vance’s 2015 biography of Mr. Musk. Later in 2002, Mr. Musk started SpaceX, which is headquartered in America.

Twenty years later, Mr. Musk’s rocket company has become a thorn in the side of the Russian government.

“Hold Strong Ukraine,” Mr. Musk said on Twitter alongside Ukrainian flag icons.

“And also my sympathies to the great people of Russia, who do not want this,” he added.


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