SpaceX's Starlink internet helps Ukrainian children receive critical cancer care

Enabling global health organizations to "continue sharing lifesaving medical information".
Chris Young
Philanthropist Jared Isaacman (left) and Earth seen from a Starlink satellite (right).1, 2

Following the start of Russia's Ukraine invasion in late February, an intense operation began to evacuate hundreds of Ukrainian children with cancer into Poland.

A global alliance of global partners coordinated by St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and ALSAC started the operation, but they were met with a key obstacle: slow, unreliable internet due to the ongoing conflict.

One of the keys to the success of the ongoing operation so far has been SpaceX's Starlink internet service, which was provided by Inspiration4 crew member and philanthropist Jared Isaacman, a press statement reveals.

SpaceX Starlink terminals enable crucial communications

Once the children were moved to Poland, they were sheltered in a converted hotel known as the Unicorn Center, where they could be organized and sent to other hospitals around Europe depending on their condition. Not only has Starlink allowed coordinators to relay key medical data and organize hospital transferals, it has also crucially allowed family members to stay in touch with their children.

Within days of the operation commencing, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital explains, philanthropist Isaacman helped to address the problem by providing SpaceX Starlink internet access.

Isaacman was the commander of Inspiration4, the first all-civilian space flight launched by SpaceX last year, sending Isaacman and three other crew members into orbit for a total of four days. Now, Isaacman is the commander of Polaris Dawn, a series of all-civilian SpaceX missions that aim to expand humanity's capacity for space exploration.

On March 5, Isaacman flew a Starlink terminal and 4,000 pounds (1,814 kg) of medical supplies to Poland. Roughly a week later he flew back with a further eight Starlink units and more supplies. "If you have the ability to help, you have the responsibility to help," Isaacman said.

"Sharing lifesaving medical information"

Philanthropist and space explorer Jared Isaacman is also an ALSAC partner and has donated a new state-of-the-art research center, called Inspiration4, for the St. Jude campus in Memphis, in the U.S.

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Isaacman will be the commander for three more SpaceX missions, starting with Polaris Dawn, which will carry out the first-ever civilian spacewalk from one of SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsules. Polaris Dawn is currently scheduled to launch at some point in November this year.

"It was no surprise to any of us that shortly after the war began, Jared was reaching out asking to help St. Jude in any way possible," said Richard C. Shadyac Jr., President and CEO of ALSAC. "By getting the Starlink systems to Poland and beyond, he's provided critical communication in desperate times." 

"Because of Starlink, our global partner teams can continue sharing lifesaving medical information and families can stay connected with their loved ones when so many are now separated in terrible ways," Shadyac Jr. continued.

Starlink has also allowed many more civilians to communicate throughout Ukraine, after SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced the company would donate terminals and free access to its service in the country following a request from the country's Vice Prime Minister, Mykhailo Fedorov. Musk did also warn, however, should be cautious when accessing the service, as it could make them a target for Russian forces.

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