Starlink’s survivability in war a good sign for DoD’s future constellation

This week I read the article Starlink’s survivability in war a good sign for DoD’s future constellation.  The name itself caught my attention but inside the article it discussed “veiled threats by Russia to obliterate Starlink’s internet satellite network” [1].  This was interesting for a few reasons relating to cybersecurity.  The first being that Russia has already done this once in the past year with the ViaSat attacks in Feb 21 so it is feasible they could potentially launch another cyber-attack against StarLink with similar outcomes.  The director of the Space Development Agency (SDA) is quoted in the article “pointing out that Russia has not conducted a kinetic attack against Star link satellites in LEO”[1] so the kinetic threat may be minimal. 

 The more interesting portion of the article related to the architecture of the network that SDA plans on having in place after they “spend billions of dollars over the next several years to deploy a LEO network consisting of hundreds of data transport and miss [1]ile-tracking satellites to support U.S. military operations” [1].  The on orbit lifecycle of the these space vehicles “will be 5 years, which means that every year 1 in 5 of the space vehicles will need to be replaced without causing any degradation” [1].  The interesting part to me is the amount of attrition they are either anticipating or planning to handle during conflict.  To me it sounds as if they are saying they can lose 20% of the network without an impact to operations.  While I’m sure there will still be network impacts the mission those vehicles are performing won’t be degraded.  The last part of the article briefly discusses “China’s proliferation of satellites into orbit especially LEO and the Chinese space strategy relies on proliferation and quick development timelines”[1].  

Not mentioned in the article but still worth mentioning I think is Space Domain Awareness.  With so many MORE satellites planned to go into space from the US and China governments alone, I think it highlights the growing importance of Space Domain Awareness and knowing where everything in orbit is at.  The article did state “starlink had at least 3,500 satellites in LEO”  [1]  I imagine with the U.S.’s plans to invest billions in space as well as private companies and other governments that space is about to look more like a traffic jam at rush hour sooner rather than later. 

[1] S. Erwin, “Starlink’s survivability in war a good sign for DoD’s future constellation,” Oct. 25, 2022. (accessed Oct. 26, 2022).