Featured Image Source: Washington Emergency Management via Twitter
During the first week of September, the small town of Malden in eastern Washington state was destroyed by wildfires. According to the Whitman County Sheriff's Office, 80% of the entire town's structures were destroyed. Malden has a population of around 200 individuals living in an agricultural region. First responders are now helping rebuild the town that lost power and stable communication systems.
SpaceX, the aerospace company founded by Elon Musk, is currently helping by providing Starlink satellite broadband internet connection to the Malden area. Having a stable service helps everyone stay connected as they work to rebuild their community. Early today, Washington Emergency Management tweeted a photograph of the devastating aftermath left by the wildfires, and thanked SpaceX for providing Starlink internet service following the disaster. – “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,” representatives wrote. To which Musk replied – “Glad SpaceX could help! We are prioritizing emergency responders & locations with no Internet connectivity at all,” he said.
Glad SpaceX could help! We are prioritizing emergency responders & locations with no Internet connectivity at all.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 28, 2020
The Starlink network will consist of around 4,400 internet-beaming satellites orbiting Earth to provide high-speed internet coverage to rural areas globally, where internet connection is unreliable an inaccessible. In rural areas, traditional terrestrial communication is very expensive to install, SpaceX plans to offer affordable services to close the digital divide. The company currently operates around 708 Starlink satellites in low Earth orbit, and plans to deploy 120 satellites on a monthly basis to rapidly roll-out its service in 2021. SpaceX officials said Starlink service will first be offered in northern portions of the United States and Canada before this year ends.
Employees received early access to private beta test the network. Starlink users receive internet from the satellites in orbit via 19-inch dish terminals that do not require a professional installation, the user will simply point it at the sky and plug it to an electric outlet to access wireless broadband internet. According to a letter SpaceX submitted to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on September 2nd, the satellites are capable of beaming “low-latency below 30 ms [milliseconds]” with “download speeds greater than 100 Mbps [megabits per second],” SpaceX wrote to the FCC.