The most challenging client payload missions can be accommodated by Starshield satellites.
The United States Space Force has granted SpaceX its first contract for the new Starshield satellites system.
A representative for the Space Force confirmed the $70 million one-year deal in a statement to CNBC. The contract has not yet been addressed by SpaceX.
Starshield satellites is a project about which little is known but SpaceX has divulged some important details.
This Starshield satellites will employ the same broadband technology as the company’s Starlink satellite constellation but Starshield satellites will be designed for use by the government specifically the US military and its allied agencies.
According to the website, Starshield satellites make use of SpaceX’s Starlink technology and launch capacity to help operations related to national security.
According to the same website, the Starshield satellites will be used primarily for three purposes: communications, Earth observation, and hosting the most difficult client payload flights. According to SpaceX, Starshield satellites can accommodate a wide range of payloads, giving operators a special degree of versatility.
High-speed internet connectivity is largely provided by SpaceX’s consumer broadband communications satellite network, Starlink, to locations without an established internet infrastructure, at sea, or in distant locations.
However, despite Russia’s continuing invasion of Ukraine, the Ukrainian government and military have made extensive use of Starlink.
According to SpaceX’s Starshield page, Starshield satellites will provide stronger levels of cybersecurity than regular Starlink satellites and will include additional high-assurance cryptographic capability to host sensitive payloads and process data securely and meet the strictest government criteria.
As the company and the Pentagon work to develop the new military-focused constellation, the Starshield satellites will be able to communicate with existing Starlink satellites through a laser communications system already aboard SpaceX’s enormous broadband constellation, potentially enhancing the range and capabilities of Starshield satellites.
Astronomer Jonathan McDowell estimates that SpaceX has launched over 5,000 Starlink satellites to far, over 4,000 of which are still in service. In addition to those, the company has applied to launch roughly 30,000 more satellites.