In August, the Serhiy Prytula Foundation announced that 600 million hryvnias ($14,2 million) that were collected by Ukrainians for three “Bayraktars” will be spent on the purchase of ICEYE‘s satellite because the manufacturer eventually provided the drones for free. At that time, this decision was made after consultations with the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, and now the Minister of Defense Oleksiy Reznikov shared the first official feedback about the operation of the satellite.
“As probably everyone remembers, thanks to the donations of Ukrainians, the defense forces of Ukraine got access to information from the group of satellites of the ICEYE company. One satellite works fully for the needs of our defense, almost two dozen more are involved when there is a need. When in June the Ministry of Defense proposed to direct the funds collected for the purchase of Bayraktars to the strengthening of space intelligence, we expected a qualitative increase in the capabilities of our troops. So far, all our expectations have come true,” Reznikov reported in his post on Facebook.
According to the Minister of Defense, combat brigades of the Armed Forces of Ukraine have been receiving a stream of data from ICEYE satellites for some time. The images are directly deciphered and processed by military intelligence specialists of the Ministry of Defense, who have undergone appropriate training. Only in the first two days of the satellite’s operation, more than 60 units of military equipment were discovered, which the enemy tried to disguise in forest strips and behind other obstacles, Reznikov notes. It was discovered because the ICEYE satellites collect information using Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) technology.
Satellite SAR images are created using radio waves that are sent from the satellite to Earth, reflected off the surface, and returned to the satellite’s sensors. Unlike optical satellites, radar satellites themselves “illuminate” objects with radio waves, so they do not depend on weather conditions. Depending on the surface material, objects will reflect the same radio wave differently. Due to this difference, certain objects in the pictures appear brighter and others appear darker.
“This equipment would be very difficult or impossible to detect by means of optical satellites,” says the minister. Instead, the coordinates of the “hidden” equipment were quickly transmitted for inflicting fire damage. In particular, in the area of Khreshchenivka and Ukrainka in Kherson Oblast, as well as near Novoselyvka in Donetsk Oblast.
“Actually, in just these two days, the enemy lost armored vehicles worth more than the cost of the entire project with satellites,” says Reznikov.
According to him, Ukraine got the opportunity to combine optical satellite data from partners and SAR data. This fundamentally increases the ability of the military to detect and inflict damage on the Russian occupiers. Moreover, satellites with SAR technology become especially relevant in autumn and winter, when the weather is bad, cloudy, or snowy.
Thanks to the fact that Ukraine owns the satellite and receives data from the entire constellation of ICEYE satellites, the Ukrainian military themselves determine where and when to receive the necessary data. Now they are systematically monitoring the main areas of hostilities in the south and east.
Information from satellites flows from analysts to combat units rapidly. According to the minister, it will be more difficult for the Russian occupiers to hide their intentions, which will further complicate their logistics.
“Once again I want to thank everyone who contributed to the financing of this initiative, the team of the Serhiy Prytula Foundation – for its realization, entrepreneur Maksym Polyakov – for his very important support. This is a real contribution to strengthening Ukraine’s defense thanks to technological advantage. After all, the Russian troops do not have such capabilities. I have already repeatedly noted that we will be able to defeat Russia only at the expense of the quality of our defense. That is why I consider this project to be a kind of startup that will open the door to other ambitious initiatives and solutions,” Oleksiy Reznikov notes.