SpaceX is developing a network of spy satellites as part of the Starshield project for US intelligence

SpaceX is developing a network of spy satellites as part of the Starshield project for US intelligence

According to several foreign media sources, SpaceX is developing a network of spy satellites as part of the Starshield project for US intelligence. This event started in 2021 at the company’s facilities as part of a secret contract with the US National Intelligence Agency, which is estimated at $1.8 billion and includes hundreds of satellites with the ability to receive images of the Earth.

According to five knowledgeable media sources, the contract for space services was between SpaceX’s Starshield division and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), which is responsible for launching and operating US intelligence satellites. Sensors and special communication equipment for spy satellites will be provided by another company, whose name has not been disclosed. Lasers will be used for high-speed transmission between spy satellites in orbit, the sources explain. According to the text of the contract, the company is creating a new separate reconnaissance space program, including the deployment of hundreds of satellites that can operate as a single system in low orbits.

More than ten prototype satellites for NRO have been launched since 2020 at the same time as others, being launched into orbit by a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle. The government’s database of orbital objects contains references to several satellites that have not been identified. According to media experts, these are prototypes of SpaceX reconnaissance satellites. At the same time, according to media sources, the Starshield project is in no way related to the Starlink network satellite grouping, which already includes more than 5,700 communication satellites.

The network of satellites of the Starshield project should expand the capabilities of the US military to quickly detect potential targets almost anywhere in the world. Also, US government agencies will be able to quickly receive images of events happening in the world in real time. The National Intelligence Service has not confirmed the SpaceX contract to the media.

Low-orbital spy satellites of the Starshield project, as explained by media sources, will be able to track targets on Earth and instantly transmit data to American intelligence and the military, which will allow the US Department of Defense to quickly receive continuous images of events taking place in any location. “No one will be able to hide,” said one of the media interlocutors, describing the potential capabilities of the system.

The media sources did not disclose when the new Starshield satellite network will start operating or which other companies are participating in the program. SpaceX did not respond to multiple media requests for comment. The US Department of Defense forwarded the media request to the NRO. A representative of the NRO confirmed the development of a complex satellite system, but refused to comment on possible cooperation with SpaceX. At the same time, the representative of the state department noted that the NRO and the units and contractors interested in the project, as well as private companies and research institutes, have been successfully working for some time on “the most powerful, diverse and sustainable space system of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance that has ever been seen.” peace”.

In September 2023, the media reported that SpaceX had signed its first contract with the US Space Force to provide satellite communications to the military using the Starshield system. Then Musk explainedthat the Starshield project would be owned by the US government and controlled by the US Department of Defense Space Force.

Previously, it was planned that the Starshield project would be based on the Starlink satellite communication system, inferior to it in scale and under the control of the American government. The project also aims to support US national security through satellite Earth observation and communications through end-to-end encryption and additional “cryptographic capabilities.”

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