Ukraine War by Satellite Breaks New Ground in Media Coverage

Image taken 6 June shows artillery shells exploding around town of Dolyna, Ukraine. (Maxar Technologies)
Image taken 6 June shows artillery shells exploding around town of Dolyna, Ukraine. (Maxar Technologies)

The international media has been able to publish high quality images of the war in Ukraine as it unfolds day-by-day. Civilian companies such as Maxar Technologies, with its four satellites, have been providing images that would have previously been highly classified if generated by sovereign military intelligence satellites.

The images that have been provided have shown a wide range of scenarios, such as the blunting of the Russian Army’s initial invasion towards the Ukrainian capital Kyiv with destroyed and damaged vehicles strewn along the line of advance, to the logistical snarl up with miles of vehicles stuck end-to-end. The pictures have also been able to help verify war crimes against civilians, by showing that bodies of murdered civilians were in place much longer that the Russian authorities have admitted to, usually inferring that they were murdered by Russian forces.

The increased resolution of satellite based imagery also continues to improve at pace year on year, as does the timeline between the imagery being taken and it being made available.

While Maxar has not made its imagery available to all media, the impact of the images that have been released have kept the world visually informed about the Russian invasion and dispel the fake claims being continually made by the Russian government about the progress of the war and the conduct of its soldiers.

The importance of the imagery being provided by Maxar’s satellites resulted in a US Government contract for $202 million from the US Government for service and support over six years.

According to a Maxar statement: “The total includes 27 awards across nine US government customers—eight of which are Department of Defense or Intelligence Community organisations—for work including artificial intelligence and machine learning applications, advanced data analytics, software development, data conditioning, geospatial production and dissemination, maritime domain awareness, and training and development.”

by Andrew Drwiega