Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk has pitched forward with his Starlink project to help Tonga access the Internet. Mr Musk asked the people of Tonga “to let us know” if he needs to send over Starlink terminals to restore Internet connectivity. Tonga is reeling under the aftermath of a massive volcanic eruption and tsunami that has caused catastrophic damage to the country's infrastructure and the sole subsea communications cable.
In his post, Mr Musk said, "Could people from Tonga let us know if it is important for SpaceX to send over Starlink terminals?”. He was replying to a news report, which said that authorities in Tonga have begun to restore telephone links but bringing the country fully online will take at least a month.
The explosion of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano has destroyed a massive number of homes and covered others under a thick layer of ash.
Mr Musk's Starlink project, which is led by his company SpaceX, aims to provide low-latency broadband Internet service using hundreds of satellites launched into low-Earth orbit. It particularly focuses on areas that are not fully covered by the terrestrial Internet infrastructure.
Recently, SpaceX launched 49 more small satellites to take the number of total satellites it has put in space to more than 2,000. SpaceX eventually plans to put 12,000 satellites in space.
While bringing Internet connectivity to remote areas is welcomed by most people, the Starlink project has faced criticism as well for increasing the risk of collision among satellites or between them and other spatial objects. Over the past few years, astronomers have expressed discomfort at the growing number of objects orbiting Earth, particularly from communications satellites. But SpaceX is not alone in sending satellites in hordes to space. Companies such as Amazon and OneWeb, too, plan to launch their own satellites.