Elon Musk offers Tonga residents access to SpaceX’s Starlink internet, but then pulls back on his proposal by claiming his company does not have enough internet satellites

  • Elon Musk offered to beam internet to Tonga using SpaceX’s Starlink
  • A volcano erupted near Tonga on Jan 15 that knocked out internet service
  • Musk, however, had to rescind his offer shortly after because SpaceX does not have enough Starlinks in space 

Elon Musk said he would use SpaceX Starlink to bring internet to the small island nation of Tonga, but then back pedaled on his offer shortly after making the statement.

Tonga was devastated on January 15 when a volcano erupted with a force equivalent to that of 500 atomic bombs, knocking out the region’s internet for a least the next month.

Musk tweeted on Friday: ‘People from Tonga let us know if it is important for SpaceX to send over Starlink terminals?’

Dr Shane Reti, MP based in Whangarei, sent a letter to Musk shortly after hearing of the proposal asking if his space-based internet could help the people of Tonga.

All was going according to plan until a few hours later when Musk broke the news: ‘This is a hard thing for us to do right now.’

Musk said SpaceX does not have enough internet satellites to assist the people of Tonga – the company has 2,000 devices in Earth’s orbit.

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Elon Musk said he would use SpaceX Starlink to bring internet to the small island nation of Tonga, but then back pedaled on his offer shortly after making the statement

The volcano created a ‘massive explosion’ that happens once in every thousand year.

It triggered a 7.4 magnitude earthquake, sending tsunami waves crashing into the island, leaving it covered in ash and cut off from outside help.

The explosion, which killed at least three people and sent tsunami waves across the Pacific, knocked out communications around the nation of about 105,000 people.

In the US, waves of more than four feet were recorded on the California coast on Saturday, and tsunami-effect waves were recorded along the coast in Oregon, Washington, British Columbia in Canada and Alaska.

Dr Shane Reti, MP based in Whangarei, sent a letter to Musk shortly after hearing of the proposal asking if his space-based internet could help the people of Tonga

All was going according to plan until a few hours later when Musk broke the news: ‘This is a hard thing for us to do right now.’ Musk said SpaceX does not have enough internet satellites to assist the people of Tonga – the company has 2,000 devices in Earth’s orbit

Musk jumped at the opportunity to lend a hand by offering up his Starlink satellite internet, which would require SpaceX to move the satellites over Tonga.

And this is where the problem arose.

Shortly after offering to beam internet down, the billionaire tweeted: ‘We don’t have enough satellites with laser links and there are already geo sats that serve the Tonga region.’

Geo satellites include devices for weather forecasting, satellite radio and television.

Musk jumped at the opportunity to lend a hand by offering up his Starlink satellite internet, which would require SpaceX to move the satellites over Tonga

And with the geo sats over Tonga there is no room for Musk to move his Starlinks in.

One Twitter user by the name of Christina chimed in on the conversation, saying: ‘Starlink needs a ground station so the satellites have internet access.

‘But there is no ground station possible in Tonga because the underwater cable is out of order.’

Telephone links between Tonga and the wider world began to be reconnected late Wednesday, though restoring full internet connectivity is likely to take a month or more, according to the owner of the archipelago’s sole undersea communications cable.

The volcano created a ‘massive explosion’ that happens once in every thousand year. It triggered a 7.4 magnitude earthquake, sending tsunami waves crashing into the island, leaving it covered in ash and cut off from outside help

Full network services will not be available until the undersea cable is fixed, Telecom operator Digicel said. A specialist ship aims to embark from Port Moresby on a repair voyage over the weekend, said Samiuela Fonua, chairman of cable owner Tonga Cable Ltd.

But with eight or nine days’ sailing to collect equipment in Samoa, then an uncertain journey toward the fault in the eruption area, he said it will be ‘lucky’ if the job is done within a month.

‘It could be longer than that,’ he said via telephone from Auckland, where he has been co-ordinating the repair.

The giant explosion was also seen by astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and NASA recently shared picture taken from the ship’s Cupola windows, showing a blanket of ash from plumes spewing thousands of feet into the atmosphere

The pictures were taken by NASA astronaut Kayla Barron as the station made a pass over New Zealand, 1,200 miles from the site of the volcano, which isn’t visible in the frame, while looking down from 253 miles above the Earth

‘The cables are actually around the volcanic zone. We don’t know … whether they are intact, or blown away, or stuck somewhere underwater. We don’t know if it’s buried even deeper.’

The giant explosion was also seen by astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and NASA recently shared picture taken from the ship’s Cupola windows, showing a blanket of ash from plumes spewing thousands of feet into the atmosphere.

The pictures were taken by NASA astronaut Kayla Barron as the station made a pass over New Zealand, 1,200 miles from the site of the volcano, which isn’t visible in the frame, while looking down from 253 miles above the Earth.

Astronaut Barron ‘opened the window’ to the Cupola on Sunday and saw the effects of the eruption, pulling out her camera to capture the effects.

‘Ash from Saturday’s underwater volcanic eruption in the remote Pacific nation of Tonga made its way thousands of feet into the atmosphere & was visible from @Space_Station,’ Barron shared in a tweet on her personal Twitter account.

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