Follow us on Google News Follow Blog


Exclusive: Musk's SpaceX is creating surveillance satellite network for US intelligence agency, insiders claim

SpaceX headquarters is pictured in Hawthorne, California, U.S. September 19, 2018

WASHINGTON, March 16 (mod1s) - SpaceX is creating a network of hundreds of surveillance satellites under a secret contract with a U.S. intelligence agency, five individuals familiar with the operation said, indicating expanding links between billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk's space firm and national security agencies. 

The network is being created by SpaceX's Starshield business subsidiary under a $1.8 billion contract signed in 2021 with the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), an intelligence agency that maintains spy satellites, the individuals added.

The proposals indicate the scope of SpaceX's cooperation in U.S. intelligence and military initiatives and reflect a deeper Pentagon commitment into massive, low-Earth orbiting satellite systems geared at assisting ground troops. 

If successful, the sources claimed the initiative would dramatically increase the capacity of the U.S.

 government and military to swiftly pinpoint prospective targets practically anywhere on the world.

The deal reflects increased confidence by the intelligence establishment of a corporation whose owner has fought with the Biden administration and generated controversy, raises fresh questions over the use of Starlink satellite communication in the Ukraine conflict, the sources added. 

The Wall Street Journal disclosed, opens new tab in February the existence of a $1.8 billion secret Starshield contract with an unnamed intelligence agency without explaining the aims of the program.

Reuters reporting indicates for the first time that the SpaceX contract is for a sophisticated new espionage system with hundreds of satellites having Earth-imaging capabilities that can function as a swarm in low orbits, and that the spy agency that Musk's business is working with is the NRO. 

Reuters was unable to identify when the new network of satellites will come up and could not discover whether other firms are part of the initiative with their own contracts.

SpaceX, the world's biggest satellite operator, did not reply to multiple requests for comment regarding the deal, its involvement in it and data on satellite launches. The Pentagon addressed a request for comment to the NRO and SpaceX. 

In a statement the NRO recognized its objective to construct a sophisticated satellite system and its relationships with other government agencies, firms, research institutes and governments, but refused to comment on Reuters' findings regarding the degree of SpaceX’s role in the endeavor. 

"The National Reconnaissance Office is developing the most capable, diverse, and resilient space-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance system the world has ever seen," a spokeswoman said. 

The satellites can follow targets on the ground and communicate that data with U.S. intelligence and military personnel, the sources claimed. In theory, it would allow the U.S. government to instantly acquire continuous footage of actions on the ground practically anywhere on the world, assisting intelligence and military operations, they noted. 

Roughly a dozen prototypes have been flown since 2020, among other satellites on SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets, three of the people said. 

A U.S. official database of objects in orbit reveals multiple SpaceX flights having delivered satellites that neither the firm nor the government have ever recognized. Two sources verified that to be prototypes for the Starshield network. 

All the sources wanted to remain anonymous because they were not allowed to discuss the U.S. government initiative. 

The Pentagon is already a huge SpaceX client, employing its Falcon 9 rockets to send military cargo into orbit. Starshield's first prototype satellite, launched in 2020, was part of a separate, around $200 million deal that helped position SpaceX for the later $1.8 billion award, one of the people said. 

The projected Starshield network is different from Starlink, SpaceX's developing commercial broadband constellation that includes around 5,500 satellites in orbit to deliver near-global internet to consumers, corporations and government agencies. 

The secret constellation of spy satellites represents one of the U.S. government’s most sought-after assets in orbit because it is meant to deliver the most persistent, extensive and quick monitoring of operations on Earth. 

"No one can hide," one of the insiders stated of the system’s potential capacity, while outlining the network's reach. 

Musk, also the founder and CEO of Tesla (TSLA.O), opens new tab and owner of social media company X, has driven innovation in space but has caused frustration among some officials in the Biden administration because of his past control of Starlink in Ukraine, where Kyiv’s military uses it for secure communications in the conflict with Russia. That power over Starlink in a combat zone by Musk, and not the U.S. military, produced conflict between him and the US government. 

A succession of Reuters’ reports has highlighted how Musk's manufacturing processes, especially at SpaceX, have hurt customers and workers. 

The Starshield network is part of escalating rivalry between the U.S. and its adversaries to become the dominant military force in space, in part by extending spy satellite systems away from bulky, costly spacecraft at higher orbits. Instead a massive, low-orbiting network can give speedier and near-constant photography of the Earth. 

China also aims to start creating its own satellite constellations, and the Pentagon has warned of space weapon threats from Russia, which may be capable of disrupting whole satellite networks.
Starshield promises to be more robust to assaults from advanced space forces. 

The network is also intended to greatly expand the U.S. government's remote-sensing capabilities and will consist of large satellites with imaging sensors, as well as a greater number of relay satellites that pass the imaging data and other communications across the network using inter-satellite lasers, two of the sources said. 

The NRO includes professionals from the U.S. Space Force and CIA and produces secret satellite images for the Pentagon and other intelligence organizations. 

The espionage satellites will hold sensors supplied by another corporation, three of the people claimed.


Post a Comment

Cookie Consent
We serve cookies on this site to analyze traffic, remember your preferences, and optimize your experience.
It seems there is something wrong with your internet connection. Please connect to the internet and start browsing again.
AdBlock Detected!
We have detected that you are using adblocking plugin in your browser.
The revenue we earn by the advertisements is used to manage this website, we request you to whitelist our website in your adblocking plugin.
Site is Blocked
Sorry! This site is not available in your country.