SpaceX and the Pentagon, it’s an old love story: the first has always known that the financing of its civil activities must go through the signing of military contracts and it did not hesitate to do so, becoming a space partner of the highest order for the military and US government agencies.
On multiple occasions, Falcon rockets from the company headed by Elon Musk have, for example, been used to put into orbit satellites classified as “secret defense” or observation.
SpaceX has also been chosen to develop and launch a hypersonic missile surveillance and tracking network, and we know that the Pentagon is taking a close interest in the firm’s large space launcher, Starship, already imagining transporting troops in a flash or material from one side of the globe to the other.
And Starlink, the orbital network of satellites created to deliver internet absolutely anywhere? Despite some hiccups and scrambles over financial issues, the system has largely proven its military and vital utility for civilian populations in times of war, as well as its resilience in the face of Russian hacking attempts.
But Starlink is a civilian-oriented system. So, at the beginning of December, SpaceX discreetly unveiled Starshield, the specifically military version of its network and its equipment, the good services of which it intends to offer to the Pentagon as well as to American government agencies such as the CIA or the NSA. “Supporting national security” (“supporting national security”), thus proclaims the home page of the official site of the structure.
Site which nevertheless gives only few details on what is planned, will be designed, or perhaps has already been. Three main objectives are pointed out for Starshield: terrestrial observation, of which we know the capital military importance; communications (military-grade security and interoperability with existing systems seem to be on the agenda); and sending “satellite buses” on demand.
It is also a question, on this same official site, of the “modular design” satellites offered by Starshield, “integrating a wide variety of loads, offering unique versatility to users”. It therefore seems that SpaceX proposes the development, by its own care, of tailor-made devices for various military uses, why not armed. We have no more details, secret nature of the missions requires.
As TechCrunch explains, it is not impossible that all this is still only very hypothetical, a service offer only waiting for profitable orders. But it’s likewise not entirely unlikely that Starshield has been working in the shadows for some time now, and that some of these new hardware projects and concepts are already well underway.
Either way, the stakes are high enough for both parties—financial for SpaceX, strategic for the U.S. government—that a structure dedicated to these things needs to be created, quite distinct from the company’s many civilian activities. to avoid any confusion of genres and budgets.