Science

SpaceX reveals Starshield satellite project for national security needs

SpaceX is expanding its satellite internet business.

SpaceX already provides broadband services to customers around the world through its huge and growing Starlink constellation. Elon Musk’s company revealed over the weekend that Starlink now has a partnership project called Starshield, which is intended for use by government agencies, especially in the national security sector.

“Starshield uses SpaceX Starlink technology and launch capabilities to support national security efforts,” SpaceX’s recently released Starshield page says. (will open in a new tab) is reading.

“While Starlink is for consumer and commercial use, Starshield is for government use with an initial focus on three areas,” the page adds. These areas are Earth observation, communications and hosted payloads (the ability to host a wide variety of instruments on the Starshield satellite bus).

Related: SpaceX Starlink Mega Constellation Launches in Photos

According to the SpaceX Starshield page, Starshield will offer a higher level of security than Starlink, with “additional highly secure cryptographic capabilities for hosting sensitive payloads and secure data processing that meet the most stringent government requirements.”

The Starshield spacecraft will also be compatible with other satellites equipped with the laser communication terminal that Starlink ships use, the page adds.

That’s pretty much everything we know about Starshield; the page does not contain many other details about the new project.

Of course, we know a lot more about Starlink. The mega constellation consists of more than 3,200 active satellites and will increase significantly in the coming months and years.

SpaceX already has Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approval to deploy 12,000 first-generation Starlink spacecraft, which are now operating in low Earth orbit.

In addition, the company has applied for permission to launch nearly 30,000 Starlink 2.0 satellites. These new spacecraft, which SpaceX plans to launch first with its next-generation Starship rocket, will be much larger and more powerful than their predecessors. For example, Starlink 2.0 satellites will be able to transmit services directly to cell phones, which SpaceX plans to start doing next year.

Last week, the FCC granted SpaceX permission to deploy just 7,500 Starlink 2.0 spacecraft, citing concerns about space debris and space traffic. The agency reserves the right to judge the rest of the application.

Mike Wall is the author of Out There (will open in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrations by Carl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (will open in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (will open in a new tab) or on facebook (will open in a new tab).

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