By Shelbi Etscorn
A few months ago, AstroDaily shared with you the skinny on the Starlink satellites being launched by SpaceX, the company run by Elon Musk who recently sent and brought back two astronauts to the International Space Station. The goal of these satellites is to offer high speed internet access to people all over the world, even the places with notoriously poor access. Our post also mentioned that anyone can sign up to test run the service, but just recently the first use of the technology was disclosed by SpaceX and the results of that initial use in the field are both heartwarming and thrilling.
Firefighters currently fighting wildfires in remote areas in Washington state have been able to use the high speed internet provided by Starlink satellites with great success. According to a CNBC article on the subject, Washington firefighters were given seven terminals to use which they set up in areas where fires had destroyed infrastructure including any internet service.
In the article, Richard Hall, the emergency telecommunications leader of the Washington State Military Department’s IT division was quoted as saying, “I have never set up any tactical satellite equipment that has been as quick to set up, and anywhere near as reliable.” These terminals have brought internet access to the places that need it most, and they aren’t only being used as communication for firefighters.
Families who have been forced to evacuate have been allowed to connect to the Wi-Fi, giving them the precious opportunity to reach their frantic loved ones and assure them they are well. They’ve also been able to file insurance claims and get the ball rolling on getting their life back to a semblance of normal after having lost so much. Children have even been able to connect to the internet so they can still attend their classes, which as of late have largely been held virtually.
The news is exciting not only because of how well this initial test has been reported to have worked, but also for the relief and aid it has given to these people who are probably going through some of the worst days of their lives. In a world that has now moved almost entirely online, it is more important than ever that people have access to reliable, high-speed internet just so they can do the things required for day-to-day life. Now I’m not saying Elon could have predicted this when he started launching Starlink satellites or that he had anything to do with the pandemic to create a need for the internet his satellites provide, but I am saying that would make a heck of a movie! And I am excited to see what other applications the internet provided by these satellites has to offer!