Private Earth observation satellites are helping the world keep tabs on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Sharp-eyed spacecraft operated by Maxar Technologies and Planet have documented Russian troop movements and damage to strategic targets in Ukraine like airbases. But the destruction and attacks were not limited to facilities of military significance, as photos from Virginia-based company BlackSky show.
On Sunday February 27, BlackSky posted on Twitter satellite images collected over Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city. The photo shows new Russian bombing craters, which “border residential areas, causing damage to nearby services and retail stores,” BlackSky representatives wrote in the Twitter post.
And on Monday (February 28), the company posted on Twitter A satellite image of an Epicentr K – a large DIY store similar to Home Depot or Lowe’s – on fire in the Ukrainian city of Chernihiv.
The photo was taken at 5:22 a.m. EST Monday (10:22 a.m. GMT; 12:22 p.m. local time in Chernihiv). It shows Epicentr K on fire, shrouded in plumes of smoke, after Russian bombardment shook the area, BlackSky representatives told Space.com via email. Burnt fields are also visible on the map a few hundred meters east of the store, they noted.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is of course above all a humanitarian and geopolitical crisis. But there could also be significant impacts on spaceflight and exploration down the road. Russia has already said it will suspend Russian-made Soyuz rocket launches from the European spaceport of Kourou, in French Guiana, for example.
Moreover, Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia’s federal space agency, recently said that the economic sanctions imposed on the nation following the invasion could destroy the International Space Station partnership.
Mike Wall is the author of “The low(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom Or on Facebook.