SpaceX is building a satellite network for US intelligence

SpaceX is building a network of hundreds of satellites under a secret contract with US intelligence amid deepening ties between Elon Musk’s space company and US national security agencies. This is reported by Reuters, citing its sources.

The sources claim that SpaceX’s Starshield business unit is building the network as part of a $1.8 billion contract it signed with the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) in 2021.

SpaceX’s contract concerns a powerful new spy system with hundreds of satellites capable of imaging the Earth.

If successful, sources say, this program will significantly expand the ability of the US government and military to quickly identify potential targets almost anywhere in the world.

“The National Reconnaissance Office is developing the most powerful, diverse, and resilient space-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance system the world has ever seen,” a US intelligence official said.

Three sources claim that SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets have launched about a dozen prototypes since 2020.

SpaceX won a subsequent contract worth $1.8 billion thanks to the 2020 launch of the first prototype of the Starshield satellite, which was part of a separate contract worth about $200 million, according to the publication.

According to a government database of objects in US orbit, several SpaceX missions have deployed satellites that neither the company nor the government have ever acknowledged. 

Two sources confirmed that these were prototypes for the Starshield network.

In particular, the network is also designed to significantly expand the US government’s remote sensing capabilities and will consist of large satellites with image sensors, as well as more relay satellites that will transmit image data and other communications over the network using inter-satellite lasers.

According to the three sources, the spy satellites will have sensors provided by another company.

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