SpaceX Building Spy Satellite Network for U.S. Intelligence: Report

SpaceX is reportedly constructing a sophisticated network of spy satellites, worth $1.8 billion, for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), reports Reuters, citing numerous unnamed sources.

The NRO is a U.S. intelligence agency responsible for satellite intelligence management, according to five sources familiar with the program.

The project, led by SpaceX’s Starshield unit, signifies the company’s growing involvement in U.S. defense and intelligence operations. These satellites are designed to augment the U.S. government’s and military’s global monitoring capabilities, potentially allowing for swift identification of targets worldwide.

“This is a significant leap in surveillance and reconnaissance technology,” one of the sources stated, highlighting the potential for continuous global observation and intelligence gathering.

Reuters first disclosed that the contract involves a powerful new spy system with numerous satellites equipped with Earth-imaging capabilities. These satellites, capable of functioning as a swarm in low-Earth orbit, underscore a growing reliance on SpaceX by the intelligence community.

The Wall Street Journal previously reported the existence of a $1.8 billion Starshield contract without specifying its purpose. Now, it’s revealed that this initiative aims to develop one of the most extensive and advanced satellite systems for the U.S. government.

“SpaceX’s foray into such a high-stakes realm of national security marks a new chapter for the company,” another source familiar with the matter said.

While the NRO acknowledged its mission to evolve a sophisticated satellite system, it declined to comment on specifics regarding SpaceX’s involvement. Similarly, SpaceX did not respond to inquiries about the contract and related satellite launches.

Approximately a dozen prototypes have been launched since 2020, with a U.S. government database indicating the deployment of satellites not publicly acknowledged by either SpaceX or the government.

This development is separate from SpaceX’s Starlink, a commercial broadband constellation, and represents a significant stride in the U.S.-led space race, notably in spy satellite technology. “The Starshield network’s capabilities are unprecedented,” a source commented on the potential coverage of the Earth.

Concerns have arisen about Musk’s influence in space-based operations, particularly with Starlink’s use in Ukraine, which has led to some tension with U.S. authorities. However, the Starshield network is poised to enhance U.S. remote-sensing capabilities significantly, showcasing a shift from traditional high-orbit satellites to a more extensive, low-orbit network for rapid and comprehensive Earth imaging.