SpaceX has made Starlink available to help in emergency situations on several occasions.
Most recently, the satellite-based internet service saw use in Maui. Wildfires that started Aug. 8 tore through parts of the Hawaiian island, taking the lives of at least 115 people, leaving hundreds more missing and wreaking massive amounts of damage including to internet services.
“To help provide connectivity in Maui, the Starlink team has shipped and distributed more than 650 kits to 40+ organizations on the island supporting recovery efforts,” Starlink, part of SpaceX, posted Aug. 16 on X, formerly Twitter.
For Starlink kits helping Maui, the company said it had “covered expedited shipping and distribution costs” and “donated ~35% of the hardware costs.” It was also trying to make the service available “below cost” with local sellers, according to the post.
Here are some other instances in which SpaceX deployed Starlink in an emergency.
Not long after Russia sent troops into Ukraine as part of its February 2022 invasion, the country started receiving Starlink access and terminals from SpaceX.
Citing costs, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said months later it was “unreasonable” for SpaceX to financially maintain the Starlink system it had in Ukraine “indefinitely,” something he later changed his mind about, FOX Business previously reported. He had reportedly asked the U.S. government to do so prior to that.
SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell announced in February the company was restricting Ukraine from using Starlink for certain military activities, saying the high-speed broadband was not designed to be used for offensive or military operations.
The Pentagon gave a contract to SpaceX for Starlink in Ukraine roughly 2.5 months ago, Reuters reported.
At the beginning of 2022, Tonga faced severe impacts to its internet connection from damages caused by a volcanic eruption and subsequent tsunami.
A team employed by SpaceX went to nearby Fiji, where the country’s then-attorney general said in early February 2022 tweet that they were “establishing a Starlink Gateway station to reconnect Tonga to the world.” For villages stranded without the internet, the company also provided Starlink terminals to Tonga, FOX Business previously reported.
In the same month, Tongan Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni indicated the Starlink services would operate for free “during the emergency period” while an underwater cable got fixed, according to Reuters.
Musk made Starlink operable in Iran in September 2022 after the Treasury Department announced it had issued a general license that would “authorize technology companies to offer the Iranian people with more options of secure, outside platforms and services.”
At the time, many citizens in the country had their internet access cut off by the Iranian government amid widespread protests. Those protests began after the death of a 22-year-old woman in police custody.
Musk posted on X in late December that the number of live Starlink terminals in Iran was approaching 100.
Iranian activists have gotten Starlink terminals smuggled into the country after groups supporting their efforts purchased and sent them, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis revealed SpaceX was providing assistance to Florida after the Sunshine State got battered by Hurricane Ian, according to footage published by WPTV.
The company apparently made changes to the positioning of its satellites to facilitate Starlink internet access in portions of the state. DeSantis, speaking during an Oct. 1 press conference, also said the state would see 120 kits from SpaceX arrive in a short timeframe to use.
“They’ve donated the cost associated with all of the coverage, so we want to thank SpaceX and thank Elon Musk for that,” DeSantis said.
Hurricane Ian, which made landfall as a Category 5 and brought severe flooding, caused nearly 150 fatalities, according to reports.
Eric Revell, Paul Best and Greg Wehner contributed to this report.