The problem is unrelated to Russia’s insufficient orbital hardware. Russia has a vast network of over 160 satellites orbiting the Earth, more than 100 of which are military systems. Russia’s shortcoming is the lack of an appropriate mix of satellites as well as the ground systems and procedures required to receive and distribute data to those in need. Despite having a network of several satellites in orbit, Russia reportedly lacks the reconnaissance capability required to carry out precision strikes.
The future of Russian satellite funding is uncertain, and investment in reconnaissance systems has been hampered by Western sanctions imposed following Crimea’s annexation in 2014.
Furthermore, Russia’s rigid and compartmentalized military command structure is exacerbated by a lack of satellite communication equipment for soldiers.
Another barrier is the lack of terminals and electronic maps, which are required for users to effectively use the GLONASS GPS satellites.
Paul Szymanski, a space warfare expert who has worked closely with the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marines, told the EurAsian Times, “Russia has gotten quite nice at using drones to target on the battlefield, and its ten-to-one advantage in cannons means that Russia will eventually win, whether it has good ISR spacecraft or not.”
“Even commercial satellites are unlikely to have enough revisit time to rapidly target moving terrestrial systems, but drones do.”
Arvind Pandey, a geospatial intelligence expert, told EurAsian Times that Russia has the capability for air and space power but is not fully utilizing it.
Pandey suggested that data unavailability is unlikely because Russia’s partners, who have similar space capabilities, may help.
The United States has accused a Chinese firm of assisting Russia’s activities in Ukraine. The United States is also urging the European Union and other partners to sanction a Chinese satellite company for allegedly assisting Russia’s military operations in Ukraine.
Commercial Satellites Used in War
which has invested heavily in military spacecraft, Ukraine’s military benefits greatly from commercially operated communication and imaging satellites.
Dr. Pavel Luzin, a Russian military expert and frequent contributor to The Jamestown Foundation, claims that the Ukrainian army can access high-resolution images of any location at least twice daily through commercial systems in favorable weather conditions.
The Russian army, on the other hand, can only obtain images of the same location every two weeks or so.
Furthermore, the report claimed that the quality of images produced by current Russian satellites is significantly lower than that of images produced by commercial satellites from the United States and Europe.
Ukrainian HIMARS rockets guided by US GPS satellites were able to hit their targets, including Russian supply depots and headquarters, with pinpoint accuracy.
Starlink, a SpaceX service that uses many low-Earth orbit satellites to establish connectivity via compact ground stations, has become critical for Ukrainian military communications.
The exact number of US surveillance satellites is classified. The National Reconnaissance Office, on the other hand, has begun collaborating with commercial entities to acquire hyperspectral satellite imagery capable of identifying objects across multiple light spectrums.
Since the beginning of the conflict, the US space company has used its Starlink satellite internet service to keep Ukraine’s internet connected.
Because other internet connections were rendered inoperable due to extensive destruction, power outages, or jamming, Elon Musk’s network became immediately necessary for the Ukrainian military.
However, in February 2023, the US-based company announced that it had put in place measures to prevent its Starlink satellite communication service from being used to operate drones, which are critical to Kyiv’s military in fending off Russian aggression.
The announcement sparked outrage in Ukraine at the time. A presidential adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, tweeted that businesses must choose between standing “on the side of Ukraine and the right to freedom” or “on [Russia’s] side and its ‘right’ to kill and seize territories.”
Meanwhile, “Russia’s political economy model makes private efforts in outer space simply impossible,” according to Luzin, a visiting scholar at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He went on to say that Russia’s political and economic model does not allow for private space efforts because they are viewed as political threats.
To prevent the revival of Russia’s military space program, he suggested that the West limit Russia’s access to space-grade electronics, advanced industrial equipment, and commercial satellite services provided by rogue firms in Asia and Europe.