Pentagon to Use 100+ SpaceX Starshield Satellites for Military Communications

SpaceX continues to develop the Starshield program to provide internet for military purposes. More than 100 satellites will be used by the Pentagon for military communications.

As part of the transition to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite constellations, the US Department of Defense (DoD) plans to integrate Starshield satellites into its future satellite communications (satcom) architecture. This will mark the beginning of a transition from using SpaceX’s commercial Starlink service to a Starshield constellation designed to improve security.

Starshield differs from Starlink in that it has increased security, including improved encryption. While Starlink is a commercial option, Starshield satellites will be owned and operated by the US government, according to Colonel Eric Felt, director of space architecture at the office of the assistant secretary of the Air Force for space acquisition and integration. He announced the plan during the Milsatcom USA conference on June 10. The acquisition of this group is planned to be completed by 2029. The final date is contingent on receiving the necessary funding from Congress.

Starshield’s multiple small satellite architecture provides global coverage and resilience to potential threats targeting traditional, larger geostationary satellites. That is why the choice fell on SpaceX’s product.

The LEO architecture will include both Starshield satellites and new commercial services such as Amazon’s Project Kuiper. Felt said the Department of Defense is exploring various strategies to use the fast-growing LEO, including buying it as a service or enhancing the government-owned Starshield system.

Clare Hopper, head of Space Force’s Commercial Satellite Communications Office (CSCO), noted the growing demand for SpaceX’s satellite internet service across the DoD, according to a Mexico Business report. A year ago, a 10-year contract worth $900 million was awarded to 20 suppliers, including SpaceX. But Hopper expects the $500 million cap to be used by next year. She is working to increase that ceiling to meet high demand.

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