SpaceX is lending a helping hand to Washington state towns ravaged by recent wildfires.
The Washington Emergency Management Division is using the company’s Starlink satellites to provide public WiFi access in Malden, Wash., where a wildfire destroyed 80% of the small town earlier this month. The satellites are also being used in Western Washington near Bonney Lake, Wash. SpaceX is providing the service for free.
Happy to have the support of @SpaceX’s Starlink internet as emergency responders look to help residents rebuild the town of Malden, WA that was overcome by wildfires earlier this month. #wawildfire pic.twitter.com/xUSQOjcT4T
— WA Emergency Management 😷 (@waEMD) September 28, 2020
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk responded to the tweet above:
Glad SpaceX could help! We are prioritizing emergency responders & locations with no Internet connectivity at all.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 28, 2020
Starlink is SpaceX’s broadband internet constellation that now consists of more than 600 spacecraft in low Earth orbit. SpaceX is nearing the start of a limited commercial service, which was promised as early as this year. Eventually, Starlink aims to provide global broadband internet access, and there are military applications as well. Amazon is also developing its own constellation called Project Kuiper.
The Starlink satellites are manufactured at the SpaceX facility in Redmond, Wash.
Steven Friederich, a public information officer with the Washington Emergency Management Division, said internet access in places such as Malden would be nearly impossible without the Starlink service. This is the first time the division has used the satellites.
“This is a device we could definitely utilize should we have more wildfires or even larger disasters, such as a Cascadia Subduction earthquake event, where communication problems would be a huge hurdle,” Friederich said.
We’ve reached out to SpaceX for more details and will update this story if we hear back.