Russia may fine citizens who use SpaceX’s Starlink internet service

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Enlarge / A Falcon 9 rocket launches five dozen Starlink satellites on August 18, 2020.

SpaceX

Russia’s legislature, the State Duma, is considering fines for individuals and businesses in the country that use Western-based satellite internet services. The bill seeks to prevent Internet access through SpaceX’s Starlink service, OneWeb, or other non-Russian satellite constellations under development.

According to a recent report by the Russian edition of Popular Mechanics, the recommended fines range from 10,000 to 30,000 rubles ($ 135 to $ 405) for ordinary users and from 500,000 to 1 million rubles ($ 6,750 to $ 13,500) for legal entities. who use satellite services.

In the Russian-language article, translated for Ars by Robinson Mitchell, Duma members say independent internet access would bypass the country’s operations research measures system, which monitors internet usage and mobile communications . Under the country’s strict control over media and communications, all Russian internet traffic must pass through a Russian communications provider.

It’s no surprise that Russia is taking action to block the Starlink service – the country’s space chief Dmitry Rogozin sees SpaceX as a main rival in spaceflight.

Rogozin criticized NASA and the US Department of Defense for subsidizing SpaceX through government contracts. (While it’s true that SpaceX has received multi-billion dollar US government launch contracts, it has also provided launch services at a significant discount compared to other vendors.) More recently Rogozin said Starlink was little more than a program to provide US Special Forces with uninterrupted communications.

Starlink, Rogozin said last August, is part of a “rather predatory, intelligent, powerful and high-tech policy of the United States, which uses Shock and Awe to promote, above all, their military interests.” Rogozin also called SpaceX’s claim that Starlink was created to provide internet service to 4% of the Earth’s surface not covered by terrestrial internet as “nonsense.”

The OneWeb ban is more interesting, given that the company uses the Russian Soyuz rocket to launch almost all of its initial constellation into orbit. Monthly launches of OneWeb satellites are planned this year, primarily from space ports in Baikonur, Kazahkstan and Vostochny, Russia. OneWeb is effectively helping support the struggling Russian launch industry at a time when SpaceX is slashing the country on commercial launch contracts.

In order not to be outdone compared to Western competitors, Russia is preparing its own satellite Internet constellation, known as the “Sphere”. However, there are questions about the affordability of this constellation, which could start launching in 2024. The program’s budget has not been confirmed, but some reports suggest it could reach $ 20 billion. This is far beyond the amount of money Russia spends in civilian space. The current budget of Roscosmos, the Russian space company run by Rogozin, receives around $ 2.4 billion a year.

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