SpaceX is introducing a new line of business focused on military satellite services

Starshield will use the Starlink internet constellation to develop new products for the military market

WASHINGTON – On December 2, SpaceX unveiled a new business segment called Starshield, aimed at US national security government agencies.

This sector of SpaceX intends to use the Starlink internet constellation in low Earth orbit to develop products and services, including secure communications, remote sensing and space surveillance payloads, which are in growing demand by US defense and intelligence organizations.

“While Starlink is intended for consumer and commercial use, Starshield is initially designed for government use with a focus on three areas: Earth observation, communications and deployed payloads,” the company said on its website.

The Starshield site is heavy on marketing and skimpy on details, but conveys SpaceX’s vision to disrupt the national security satellite sector as it does in launch, commercial broadband and civilian space.

“SpaceX’s ongoing work with the Department of Defense and other partners demonstrates our ability to deliver capabilities in space and on the ground at scale,” the company said.

These statements suggest that SpaceX has decided to offer more specialized products to win big-ticket contracts as it expands its reach into the national security launch and broadband satellite markets. Starshield will offer “end-to-end systems,” meaning complete services from launch vehicles to satellites and user terminals.

“It seems they’ve finally realized that going all commercial and asking their national security space customers to use it doesn’t always work, so they’re going to offer alternative products focused on national security but based on Starlink technology and production lines.” said an industry analyst SpaceNews.

Starshield products and services include satellites with sensor payloads capable of delivering processed data directly to the user, secure global communications and user equipment, and customized satellite buses.

The satellite communications services offering will be drawn from the company’s experience in Ukraine, where Starlink demonstrated its ability to operate in a combat zone and proved more robust than the US military expected from a commercial system. The Air Force purchased Starlink services to support units in Europe and Africa because of the system’s ability to operate in a hostile electronic environment.

Starshield also benefits from SpaceX’s participation in the U.S. Space Development Agency’s missile tracking and detection constellation, where it is partnering with Leidos to develop four classified infrared sensor satellites scheduled for launch by the end of the year.

SpaceX will offer to “deploy classified payloads and securely process data that meets the most demanding government requirements.”

Starshield satellites will be equipped with laser terminals to interact with military satellites. Interoperability is a key requirement as the DoD seeks to use commercial low-Earth orbit satellite capacity to transport data collected by remote sensing systems. Defense officials have warned that the current Starlink network cannot be integrated into the hybrid architecture the DoD hopes to build because of its highly proprietary technology.

SpaceX also promises “rapid deployment and development” of capabilities, which resonates with DoD space procurement agencies that have been frustrated by the slow pace and high cost of satellite procurement for years.

Some of the more advanced capabilities advertised by Starshield probably won’t be available until SpaceX deploys its second-generation Starlink satellites. These will be larger than the first-generation version and will be designed with the performance features necessary to accept national security payloads and provide higher levels of encryption than the commercial Starlink service.

To date, SpaceX has launched approximately 3,500 first-generation Starlink satellites and recently won license approval to deploy a Gen2 spacecraft.

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