Responders fighting wildfires in Washington are getting some additional help from SpaceX and the company’s Internet-to-Space Starlink initiative. SpaceX gave a handful of user terminals to the Washington Emergency Management Division, which can tap into the company’s StarLink satellites, providing Internet in rural areas where first responders are battling raging wildernesses.
SpaceX is still in the beginning of construction of its StarLink constellations, which upon completion could include about 12,000 satellites. The number of satellites can provide broadband Internet services everywhere at all times on Earth from relatively low orbits, possibly providing global Internet coverage from space. There is still a way. So far SpaceX has launched about 800 satellites, although dozens have also been taken out of orbit. SpaceX plans to begin beta testing in the Washington area, which resides in satellites.
“What happened is that they happened to satellites reaching our area,” wrote Steven Frederick, spokesman for the Washington Emergency Management Division. The ledge In a message
Glad SpaceX can help! We are prioritizing emergency responders and locations with no internet connectivity.
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 28, 2020
The Washington Emergency Management Division is using SpaceX’s two user terminals to receive broadband from overhead satellites. One is located near Malden, Washington, which was devastated by wildfires, and the other is located near a small fire called Sumer-grade wildfire in western Washington. According to Frederick, “without a terminal, it would be nearly impossible to obtain Internet near the Malden area”. “I think this is the first [public] Starlink is used and partnered by their technical experts with our team in the state [Emergency Operations Center] Is priceless, ”said Frederick.
SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment. However, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk responded to a tweet from the Washington Emergency Management Division about the terminals, noting that the company is prioritizing “first responders and places with no internet connectivity”.
According to Frederick, the Starlink system is great for communication. Respondents have used terminals to coordinate where to release water on fire and to request additional resources and supplies from the agency. It is also being used in Malden to help the public as they rebuild their homes. Frederick said that in the future such a system could be useful for other types of disasters, such as a major earthquake. Parts of Earth’s crust are being pushed into North America in an area known as the Cascadia Subduction Zone, just off the coast of Washington. Eventually, it can cause catastrophic earthquakes that can leave parts of the region without electricity for weeks. Frederick says that during such a disaster, communication issues will be over.
“It’s a tool we can definitely use. We should have more wildfires or even bigger disasters,” he said.