back to article Starlink terminals reportedly smuggled into Iran amid internet shutdowns

Iranians are reportedly smuggling SpaceX Starlink broadband satellite terminals into their country as Tehran restricts internet access amid an ongoing uprising. Protesters continue to clash with police after Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman, was arrested and reportedly beaten to death by officers for not wearing a hijab last …

  1. Nifty Silver badge

    Ground stations are locatable by 'decoding' Starlink's signal, to within 30m?

    1. Natalie Gritpants Jr

      No. You can locate your starlink terminal to 30m, not anyone else's. You can't tell where my GPS is either can you?

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        You can't tell where my GPS is either can you?

        Your GPS doesn't talk back. If you have, or have access to ELINT satellites overhead, just look for the lil Ku or Ka band searchlights shining up from places where they're not supposed to be.

        1. MatelotJim

          Still no, read the article again. It is about using Starlink birds sync transmissions to locate -yourself- in the absence of GPS. Not other people.

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Still no, read the article again.

            Err.. perhaps it's you who should read again?

            Are Starlink terminals synced to satellites? Are they transmitters? Are GPS terminals transmittters, or receivers? Which is easier to DF, a receiver, or a transmitter?

            1. MatelotJim

              You never mentioned DF in your comment. So I have no idea what you're on about.

              The linked article is about using what is basically pre-amble on the link to generate a pseudorange, which is combined with ephemeris could be used to calculate a position. Basically GPS. No mention of DF what so ever.

              As for DF, it is ~literally~ my job, yes you could DF the user ground stations, although the beam for a satcom system is pretty tight you may get lucky with the side lobes. The trouble with phased arrays is that the side lobes aren't consistent, combined with the frequency modulation may make it more difficult at longer ranges.

              1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                You never mentioned DF in your comment. So I have no idea what you're on about.

                You have made that abundantly clear. I replied to Natalie's comment, then you replied to mine..

                As for DF, it is ~literally~ my job, yes you could DF the user ground stations,

                Literally is an overus.. Well, so which is easier? DF'ng a target transmitter on a 'flat' plane, with a few receivers a few miles apart. Or via multiple, fast moving satellites 300-700 miles up, which would give you the potential to capture far more samples from far more angles, and calculate a target position far more accurately? There are also commercial satellite services that offer radio transmitter surveys doing exactly this, using a variety of satellite designs ranging from large to disposable cubesats. How the lurkers in the dark do it is anyone's guess because they generally don't talk about their stuff. The fundamentals aren't that different from when the Bbc's model shoppe mocked up their 'TV detectors' to scare the gullible though.

            2. MatelotJim

              And to be pedantic, depending on the receiver technology you can DF a receiver. Most older receivers use a local oscillator (LO) as part of the signal receive path (down conversion / de-modulation etc). This LO ~will~ transmit at that frequency, even if quite faintly. In the days of analogue TV this is how TV detectors worked. Not so much now with digital signal processing.

  2. Bitsminer Silver badge


    They won't work, not for long.

    1. I'm guessing the US govt, as licensor to Starlink/SpaceX, has a law requiring them to operate only in countries where they have permission, aka license, to operate.

    2. Each terminal has to know where it is located, in order to function correctly with the satellites passing overhead. They should have geo-fencing enabled as a matter of course. See point 1.

    3. And there is such a thing as ARM -- anti-radiation missile. And RDF -- radio direction finder. The Iranians will be able to locate and destroy dishes with radio triangulation and simply blow up whatever is within a few dozen meters of each dish. The dishes point skyward but still leak RF in all directions, with a much weaker but still detectable signal.

    It's not impossible to use satcom tech in interdicted territory but Starlink is not the right choice.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Naive

      Redundant BBC TV detector vans imported from the UK and repurposed?

    2. MatelotJim

      Re: Naive

      In reply...

      1. Yes, but that really isn't a concern. See point below.

      2. Yes, but there is more to it. Starlink splits the ground area into cells and as each bird passes over it beamforms a spotbeam into that cell, most (I'm an ex-sat com engineer) satcom ground user systems won't transmit until they have an active lock onto the bird.

      3. I doubt there's an ARM missile that is operated by Iran that can seek out a the frequencies used by Starlink.

      The biggest thing everyone is missing here that -if- they have been smuggled into Iran -and- they are working then that means that both the US gov and SpaceX have given this the go ahead. With the geofencing already mentioned and the requirement for a ground station in the region for downlink (bird to bird laser links are not available throughout the fleet yet) it is impossible for this to work without SpaceX wanting it to work.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Ideally, Starlink would design a personal mobile terminal that would fit under a Texas 10 gallon hat.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Inconspicuous

      But this is in Iran. It'd be better if they could disguise one as a hijab.

      Because that way the authorities should have to insist that it continued to remain on at all times. :-)

  4. S4qFBxkFFg

    "The effort to smuggle hardware into Iran did not involve the help of the US government nor SpaceX, he said."

    SpaceX must be cooperating to some extent, if not, the dishes will be useless. Someone working at Starlink HQ will need to explicitly enable the cells (hexagonal areas of the Earth's surface) corresponding to Iranian territory, or the satellites will simply ignore dishes there.

    Map of active/potential cells here:

    edit: amusingly, the above map implies that if you live on Rockall, you're sorted, but Knutsford and much of London are out of luck.

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