Iridium Communications CEO Matt Desch told NASASpaceflight.com in an interview published Tuesday how the company’s satellite network and devices worked to help first responders communicate and perform recovery operations in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in Puerto Rico last year.
“We could see this tremendous spike [in Puerto Rico and some of the surrounding islands] as first responders, as local administrations, as individuals who were pouring in, as private pilots bringing in supplies all brought in their satellite phones because their cell phones weren’t working and so they were using Iridium network phones exclusively,” Desch said.
He cited how first responders relied on Iridium’s internet of things-based services to facilitate communications with other emergency personnel after the hurricanes hit the U.S. territory as well as mentioned the vulnerability of terrestrial networks to natural disasters.
“There’s just these constant reminders around the world that the terrestrial infrastructure is fragile,” he noted.
“It doesn’t stay up, and a backup of some sort is very needed.”
Desch also shared his views on SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s plan to use Iridium’s NEXT satellite constellation to support the Falcon 9 rocket’s stage 2 recovery operation and testing missions.