SpaceX has secured its first contract for Starshield, the defense-focused version of its Starlink satellite internet service, from the U.S. Space Force. The contract, awarded on September 1, has a maximum value of $70 million and will provide Starshield end-to-end service to over 50 mission partners across all arms of the U.S. military. SpaceX will initially receive $15 million by the end of this month. Starlink gained attention during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, when the service was activated in Ukraine and Starlink terminals were sent for civilian and military use. However, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk later refused to activate the service when Ukraine requested it before a planned attack on Russia’s navy.
Starshield, announced in December, aims to address the ambiguity surrounding using a commercial service in war operations. The U.S. Space Force has expressed interest in enhancing its satellite internet capabilities, and Starlink is an appealing option due to its “proliferated” architecture of many thousands of satellites in low Earth orbit. This architecture makes the system more resilient to attacks from adversaries. While SpaceX did not comment on the new contract, Musk stated that the distinction between Starlink and Starshield serving civilian and defense customers, respectively, is the correct approach.
In summary, SpaceX has received a one-year, $70 million contract from the U.S. Space Force for its Starshield defense-focused satellite internet service. This contract will support multiple U.S. military arms and mission partners. Starlink’s role in Ukraine during the Russian invasion has raised questions, with Musk later refusing to activate the service for a planned attack. Starshield aims to provide more clarity on using commercial services in war operations. The U.S. Space Force is interested in Starlink due to its resilient satellite architecture. Musk believes that having separate civilian and defense services is the right approach.