How SpaceX brought the Internet back to Washington City ravaged by fire


SpaceX provides Malden with its network of satellites. (WA Emergency Management Department, Twitter)

With the city of Malden, Wash., Almost completely destroyed by recent wildfires, Washington’s Emergency Management Department received help from an unexpected source at SpaceX.

The history of flames in Whiteman County is as arson

The company offered the use of its StarLink internet provided by satellites, which orbit the planet to provide public internet access to Malden, as well as Bone Lake. According to a GeekWire report, SpaceX is offering this service for free.

The fire, which began around Labor Day, destroyed about 80% of Malden’s steep structures, and burned for hundreds of days in the Bonnie Lake area. On twitter, Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, noted that the company is “prioritizing emergency responders and locations that do not have Internet connectivity at all.”

SpaceX’s Starlink broadband internet currently uses 600 satellites in low orbit around the Earth, eventually hoping to provide broadband access throughout the world. The satellites produced at SpaceX’s Redmond facility are actually built in Washington as well.

Speaking on the possibility of using satellites for future crises, the state’s Department of Emergency Management hinted at their usefulness in several possible scenarios.

The department said on Twitter, “This is a tool that we can definitely use that should also cause major disasters, (such as) a Cascadia subduction earthquake, where (communication) problems will be a huge obstacle.”

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