LOCAL NEWS

How SpaceX brought internet back to Washington town devastated by fires

Sep 29, 2020, 11:55 AM
SpaceX satellites...
SpaceX provides aid to Malden with its network of satellites. (WA Emergency Management Department, Twitter)
(WA Emergency Management Department, Twitter)

With the town of Malden, Wash., almost entirely destroyed by recent wildfires, Washington’s Emergency Management Department got help from an unexpected source in SpaceX.

History in flames in Whitman County as fires decimate Malden

The company offered the use of its Starlink internet provided by satellites orbiting the planet to provide public internet access to Malden, as well as Bonney Lake. According to a report from Geekwire, SpaceX is offering this service free of charge.

Fires that began around Labor Day destroyed roughly 80% of Malden’s standing structures, and burned through hundreds of acres in the Bonney Lake area for days. On Twitter, SpaceX founder Elon Musk noted that the company is “prioritizing emergency responders and locations with no internet connectivity at all.”

SpaceX’s Starlink broadband internet currently uses upwards of 600 satellites in low orbit around Earth, eventually hoping to provide broadband access across the entire globe. The satellites themselves are actually made in Washington as well, produced at SpaceX’s Redmond facility.

Speaking on the possibility of using the satellites for future crises, the state’s Emergency Management Department hinted at their utility across a variety of possible scenarios.

“This is a device we could definitely utilize should we have even larger disasters, (like) a Cascadia Subduction earthquake, where (communication) problems would be a huge hurdle,” the department said on Twitter.

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How SpaceX brought internet back to Washington town devastated by fires