Ukraine’s ability to defend itself against Russia’s invasion has had a ripple effect. Taiwan, which also faces a potential attack by much more powerful China, has been inspired to set up a similar defense system to SpaceX’s Starlink.
The satellite internet service has allowed Ukraine to remain in contact with its troops. This is despite deploying its soldiers to different parts of the country. Thanks to Starlink, the communication link has remained active despite Russia hitting the country’s communication infrastructure.
According to sources available to Financial Times, Taiwan plans to set up a similar communication network with low-Earth orbit satellites. Its space agency TASA is already in talks with domestic and international investors to raise funds for the project. The investment will spin off into a company.
“Our primary concern…is facilitating the societal resilience, to make sure for example that journalists can send videos to…international viewers even during a large-scale disaster,” Audrey Tang, Taiwan’s digital affairs minister, explained to the Financial Times. “The vision [is] not to tie ourselves to any particular satellite provider. We want to work with as many of them concurrently—that’s resilience.”
Ukraine got the first batch of Starlink dishes after a senior government official appealed directly to SpaceX’s CEO Elon Musk on Twitter last February. The besieged European nation has now received about 22,000 dishes. Ten thousand more will arrive in the coming months.
Starlink can be powered by generators or even cars should the power grid be damaged. The service has been credited for dropping anti-tank munitions on Russian troops.
SpaceX has reportedly swallowed some of the cost of Starlink in Ukraine. However, this arrangement may not be easy to replicate in Taiwan. China has reportedly barred SpaceX from rolling out the service within its territories. Another complication is that SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk’s other company, Tesla, has a major operation in China, where it manufactures and exports EVs.