Emergency workers in fire-hit town tap into SpaceX's Starlink internet
SpaceX began launching its Starlink satellites into orbit last year in a bid to eventually blanket the Earth in high-speed internet, and while the mega-constellation is far from complete, some are already tapping into the connectivity on offer. Washington state’s emergency response workers have been using the space-based internet as they tend to a town ravaged by recent wildfires, and report that it is plugging the gap in communications infrastructure just nicely.
While SpaceX plans to eventually have tens of thousands of Starlink satellites circling the Earth, the constellation currently consists of nearly 800. This is approaching the number CEO Elon Musk has said is needed to start offering “significant coverage,” with the company previously outlining plans to service the northern US and Canada by the end of 2020.
The company has found some early adopters ahead of that rollout in the form of emergency responders working to rebuild the town of Maiden in the state of Washington. As reported by CNBC, the workers were given Starlink user terminals to connect to the network in early August, making it the first prolonged application of the technology outside of early user testing.
In response to a Twitter user enquiring about the performance of the service, Washington’s Emergency Management Division said, “Our ESF-2 [Emergency Support Function-2] has been impressed with the connectivity. This is a device we could definitely utilize should we have even larger disasters, ie. a Cascadia Subduction earthquake, where comm problems would be a huge hurdle.”
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk also weighed in on Twitter, noting that emergency responders and regions without internet are the team’s priority.
Glad SpaceX could help! We are prioritizing emergency responders & locations with no Internet connectivity at all.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 28, 2020
SpaceX continues to put its Starlink satellites into orbit at a high frequency, carrying out 10 launches already this year alone. The 13th overall Starlink mission was originally planned for this week, before being delayed due to bad weather.