SpaceX has deployed its Starlink internet service via satellite connectivity for free to emergency responders battling the fires in Washington State. The free satellite connectivity provides free internet to areas in Washington town devastated by wildfires. The Emergency Management Department utilized the Starlink internet service after using SpaceX’s user terminals to connect with the company’s 700 satellites in Low Earth Orbit.
The emergency department utilized the service to provide quality internet service in Malden and Bonney Lake among other areas razed by the ongoing wildfires.
The emergency telecommunications official of the Washington State Military Department’s IT division, Richard Hall, expressed delight at the ease of setting up internet connection with SpaceX’s satellites and reported that the service was quick, easy, and of high quality. He noted that Starlink’s internet connection “doubles the bandwidth” of other internet providers and that he has recorded a more than 150% reduction in latency.
“I’ve seen lower than 30-millisecond latency consistently,” Hall said. “I have never set up any tactical satellite equipment that has been as quick to set up, and anywhere near as reliable.”
SpaceX plans to deploy about 12,000 Starlink satellites to space in Low Earth Orbit which is nearer Earth than most conventional broadband satellites. The aim is to provide high-speed internet access to every location in the world – yes, to every corner of our planet Earth – using its 12,000 satellites to form a “constellation”. Hall said it takes about 30 minutes to one hour to set up a traditional satellite connection (with unimpressive speed and less broadband and higher latency), but that he single-handedly connected SpaceX’s satellites using their ground terminal in less than 10 minutes.
“It doesn’t require a truck and a trailer and a whole lot of other additional equipment,” Hall said. “I have spent the better part of four or five hours with some satellite equipment trying to get a good [connection]. I even did set up to allow kids to do some of their initial schoolings too because they were pressing forward with some limited presence slowly. We covered a whole lot of bases. Starlink changes the game as far as what’s available.”
Hall hinted that his agency might consider using SpaceX’s internet connections for their operational service. He said the management will have a discussion with SpaceX over this. Other agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Natural Resources in Washington have also indicated an interest in SpaceX’s internet service.
“Glad SpaceX could help! We are prioritizing emergency responders & locations with no Internet connectivity at all,” SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk, tweeted.