Starshield will leverage the Starlink internet constellation to develop new products for the military market
WASHINGTON — SpaceX on Dec. 2 unveiled a new commercial segment called Starshield for U.S. government national security agencies.
This segment of SpaceX intends to leverage the Starlink internet constellation in low Earth orbit to develop products and services – including secure communications, remote sensing and space surveillance payloads – that are increasingly in demand by US defense and intelligence organizations.
“While Starlink is designed for consumer and commercial use, Starshield is designed for government use, with an initial focus on three areas: Earth observation, communications and hosted payloads,” the company said. on its website.
The Starshield site is heavy on marketing and light on detail, but conveys SpaceX’s vision to disrupt the national security satellite industry, just as it has in launch, commercial broadband and civilian space. .
“SpaceX’s ongoing work with the Department of Defense and other partners demonstrates our ability to deliver large-scale in-space and ground-based capabilities,” the company said.
These statements suggest that as SpaceX expanded its reach into the national security launch and satellite broadband markets, it decided it needed to offer more specialized products in order to win major contracts. . Starshield will offer “end-to-end systems”, ie complete services ranging from launchers to satellites and user terminals.
“It looks like they’ve finally figured out that going commercial and asking customers in the national security space to use it doesn’t always work, so they’re going to offer alternative products that are national security focused but based on Starlink technology. and production lines,” an industry analyst said. SpaceNews.
Starshield’s products and services will include satellites with sensing payloads capable of delivering processed data directly to the user, secure global communications and user equipment, and custom satellite buses.
The satellite communications service offerings would draw on the company’s experience in Ukraine, where Starlink demonstrated it could operate in a combat zone and proved more resilient than what the U.S. military would have expected from a trading system. The Air Force purchased Starlink services to support units in Europe and Africa due to the system’s ability to operate in a hostile electronic environment.
Starshield also capitalizes on SpaceX’s participation in the US Space Force Space Development Agency’s Missile Tracking and Detection Constellation, where it has partnered with Leidos to develop four classified infrared sensor satellites including the launch is expected before the end of the year.
SpaceX will offer to host “classified payloads and process data securely, meeting the most demanding government requirements,” the company said.
Starshield satellites would be equipped with laser terminals to make them interoperable with military satellites. Interoperability is a key requirement as the DoD wishes to use commercial satellite capability in low Earth orbit to transport data collected by remote sensing systems. Defense officials have warned that the current Starlink network, due to its highly proprietary technology, cannot be integrated into a hybrid architecture that the DoD hopes to build.
SpaceX also promises “rapid deployment and development” of capabilities, a pitch that resonates with DoD space-purchasing agencies who for years have been frustrated by the slow and high cost of satellite purchases.
Some of the more advanced features announced by Starshield likely won’t be available until SpaceX deploys its second-generation Starlink satellites. These will be larger than the first-generation version and designed with the performance features needed to host national security payloads and provide higher levels of encryption than commercial Starlink service.
To date, SpaceX has launched approximately 3,500 first-generation Starlink satellites and recently obtained approval to deploy Gen2 spacecraft.
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