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17 Mar, 2024 01:09

Musk building huge spy satellite network – Reuters

SpaceX reportedly signed a $1.8 billion contract with US intelligence services back in 2021
Musk building huge spy satellite network – Reuters

Elon Musk’s secretive Starshield project will allow the US military to track targets and support American and allied ground forces in real time almost anywhere on Earth, Reuters has reported, sharing new details of the billionaire’s dealings with the Pentagon.

SpaceX has been launching prototype military satellites alongside “civilian” payloads on Falcon 9 rockets since at least 2020, before eventually securing a lucrative $1.8 billion contract with the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) in 2021, Reuters wrote on Saturday, citing five unnamed sources familiar with the project.

The vast constellation of low-Earth orbit satellites will be able to track targets on the ground in real time nearly anywhere worldwide, the sources claimed. One of them boasted that Starshield would ensure “no one can hide” from the US government. The system also reportedly aims to be “more resilient to attacks” by rival space powers.

It remains unclear how many Starshield satellites are currently operational and when the system is expected to fully come online, with SpaceX and the Pentagon ignoring Reuters’ requests for comment. The NRO claimed it is developing “the most capable, diverse, and resilient space-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance system the world has ever seen,” but refused to comment on SpaceX’s role in the project.

The SpaceX CEO previously acknowledged the development of the military alternative to the “civilian” Starlink system, saying in September that it would be “owned by the US government” and controlled by the Department of Defense.

“Starlink needs to be a civilian network, not a participant to combat,” Musk said, referring to the use of the satellites in Ukraine throughout the conflict with Russia.

Musk donated around 20,000 Starlink terminals to Ukraine shortly after Russia launched its military operation in February 2022. Since then, Kiev’s troops heavily relied on the system to maintain communications and operate combat drones along the front line.

While pledging support for Ukraine, Musk has repeatedly said he favors a peaceful resolution of the conflict. The billionaire has come under fire from US officials after refusing Kiev’s demands to use the Starlink network to aid strikes on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. In turn, Musk argued that activating Starlink in Crimea would be in breach of US sanctions. In the absence of any direct orders from the US leadership, SpaceX opted not to contravene regulations despite Kiev’s request to do so, the tycoon explained.

Earlier this month, US lawmakers reportedly launched another probe into SpaceX, after Ukrainian claims that Russian troops had allegedly used Starlink satellite service on the conflict frontline. Musk has denied the allegations, insisting that “no Starlinks have been sold directly or indirectly to Russia.” The Kremlin has also insisted that the Russian military has never ordered Starlink terminals.