SpaceX's Starlink RV could help storm chasers save lives – here's how

An Emmy award-winning meteorologist recently used Starlink RV to live stream a tornado from a rural location.
Chris Young
A stock image of a tornado.
A stock image of a tornado.

koto_feja / iStock 

SpaceX's Starlink internet constellation has helped to keep civilians connected amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine. It has also helped users worldwide to live an idyllic off-grid lifestyle.

That's not to say the service hasn't faced criticism. Last year, a group of scientists organized against SpaceX's Starlink deployment, stating that it could harm the environment and eventually lead to Kessler Syndrome.

Even NASA stated its concern that SpaceX's Starlink constellation could block out its view of potentially hazardous asteroids.

More recently, however, Emmy award-winning meteorologist and storm chaser Nick Stewart used SpaceX's Starlink RV service to stream a tornado that he would not have been able to share using regular cell coverage.

Stewart believes the service could help himself and others provide better storm coverage and potentially save lives. During a "storm chase on Jan. 16, Starlink RV "did not have a single hiccup," and it "was better than any cell data I've used," he told IE in an interview earlier this month.

Starlink RV could help save lives during tornado season

Stewart, who chases storms and forecasts the weather professionally for Iowa’s News Now, started storm chasing as a teenager. He continues the dangerous practice today because he believes it can help to save lives.

Essentially, a storm chase can provide the imagery that will cause locals to take note and evacuate when necessary, rather than ignoring warnings.

This is backed up by data, as a 2010 study by a Michigan State University scientist showed that an alarming 37 percent of surveyed respondents didn’t understand that a warning is the most urgent National Weather Service statement during severe weather.

"Saying a tornado is possible is one thing based on radar data, but actually seeing a tornado live on TV provides such a higher level of danger to the viewer they are more willing to take shelter," Stewart told IE.

In his interview with IE, Stewart explained that, on Jan. 16, his Starlink RV setup provided him with coverage when his broadcaster's LiveU coverage unit, which connects to several cell providers, would not.

The award-winning meteorologist explained that Starlink RV allowed him to provide coverage from a rural location that was hit by a strong storm and had no cell service. A video of the storm chase can be seen above, with the action starting around the 56-minute mark.

Starlink will soon stream data straight to your phone

Starlink's accessibility will likely only improve over the coming years, as it is rolled out across new countries and in new formats.

Just this week, SpaceX launched 21 new "V2 mini" Starlink satellites to orbit. Those satellites will help it test the technology it will deploy with its full-size V2 Starlink satellites once its fully reusable Starship rocket is operational — an orbital launch attempt is expected to take place in March.

Those V2 Starlink satellites will provide even better coverage, as they will feature the technology required to send coverage directly to cell phones. In fact, SpaceX recently announced a partnership with T-Mobile to provide straight-to-cell coverage for its clients.

SpaceX isn't about to slow down with the launch of its Starlink mega-constellation. The private space company has launched more than 4,000 Starlink satellites to orbit so far, and it has applied for approval to deploy roughly 30,000 more. Let's hope the benefits it brings Starlink users will outweigh the potential negative implications it could have for our planet.

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