Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite internet system is being used to help monitor seismic and volcanic activity at Yellowstone National Park.
Starlink’s capability to provide stable internet connection to remote areas would be invaluable to Yellowstone, as a good number of the GPS, seismometers, tiltmeters and temperature sensors in the area are placed in remote locations to minimize their impact on the environment and visitors. For these sensors and equipment to perform optimally, they need to maintain strong connections.
“EarthScope Consortium administers a network of GPS and borehole strainmeter and seismometer instruments within the park. These instruments depend on a strong communications network to keep data streaming and contribute to monitoring of earthquake, volcanic, and hydrothermal activity in the Yellowstone region,” the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory wrote in a blog post.
As noted in the blog post, radio and cellular communication options for monitoring stations at Yellowstone have downsides. Cellular service, for example, could slow down during peak tourist seasons. Satellite-based solutions such as Starlink do not have this weakness, as they function well as long as they have access to the open sky. With this in mind, Starlink is now being tested to help decrease the use of cellular networks.
A Starlink system was set up in May at one of the borehole stations between Mammoth Hot Springs and Norris Geyser Basin. So far, tests indicate that the system is performing well. If tests continue to be successful, more Starlink satellite internet systems will likely be added before the winter months. After all, remote areas around Yellowstone tend to be difficult to reach during extreme weather conditions.
With over 4,000 satellites in its network, Starlink is the largest satellite system in the world. And thanks to optimizations to the system itself and the continuous launch of more Starlink satellites, the constellation would likely only get better with time.