SpaceX’s Starlink internet is helping Washington emergency responders

The satellite internet is faster to set up and use than the farther-flung satellite networks.

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The State of Washington’s military, including its emergency response division, has been using SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet network in recent weeks, according to CNBC. Emergency responders are using Starlink to assist rural communities in dealing with local wildfires. Though the program has only launched more than 700 of its promised 12,000 satellites, they’re achieving stellar coverage in the Pacific Northwest. Starlink’s development facility and factory are located near Seattle in Redmond, Washington.

Love at first byte — Responders are already huge Starlink fans. Traditional satellite internet networks can take at least 30 minutes to an hour to set up and they offer far slower connection speeds. Starlink terminals establish connections in 10 minutes or less, are considerably faster, and don’t require bulky equipment.

SpaceX sent beta and commercial grade Starlink terminals to emergency responders, the differences between which are reportedly only cosmetic. They were told to install them clearly facing North, but even slightly obscured machines yielded great internet speeds. Terminals were set up in severely burned areas to allow residents to make calls and file insurance claims. Additional terminals were set up to help kids do some of their schoolwork.

When you wish upon a Starlink — Though Starlink only has a fraction of its satellites in low orbit, it’s already shown how it can deliver multiple, simultaneous HD video streams in covered areas. Environmental critics and stargazers have pushed back against the massive project which would increase the number of satellites orbiting Earth by eightfold — and that’s not counting the military or Amazon’s efforts. Even if you look past the potential for debris, can you imagine spending millions on a revolutionary telescope and have thousands of satellites cluttering your view?

SpaceX plans to offer coverage to the U.S. and Canada by the end of the year.