Reports suggest that SpaceX is in the process of constructing a network of surveillance satellites for US intelligence purposes

The US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and SpaceX’s Starshield division have a classified contract that was signed in 2021, according to a report published by Reuters today. According to people familiar with the operation, the contract entails building a network of “hundreds” of spy satellites for the agency. A Wall Street Journal article from earlier in February provided specifics on a $1.8 billion contract that SpaceX was given by an unnamed federal entity. 

The contract was secret. It has now been disclosed by Reuters that the deal is with the NRO and concerns the creation of a network of satellites with Earth-imaging capabilities that can function together in low orbits. Information about the network’s operational timetable or the participation of other businesses is kept confidential. The study does point out that satellites that SpaceX has launched but which neither the government nor the corporation has formally acknowledged are included in a US space object database. These objects are verified by sources to be Starshield prototypes. Starshield is described by SpaceX as a government-focused, secure satellite network. Elon Musk even tweeted that the system “will be owned by the US government and controlled by DoD Space Force.” The business unit signed a deal with the US Space Force last year to provide Starlink satellite communications to the armed forces.If the NRO contract is successful, the US government and military may be able to more quickly identify possible targets anywhere in the world, according to Reuters.

An NRO representative reportedly declined to comment on Reuters’ conclusions about SpaceX’s involvement, but they did affirm to the publication that the organization is dedicated to creating “the most capable, diverse, and resilient space-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance system the world has ever seen.”

 

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