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Elon Musk’s SpaceX is creating network of ‘hundreds’ of spy satellites for US – while government officials bash him for his anti-woke social media posts

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is creating network of ‘hundreds’ of spy satellites for US – while government officials bash him for his anti-woke social media posts
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SpaceX is building hundreds of spy satellites under a classified contract with a U.S. intelligence agency, demonstrating deepening ties between billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk‘s space company and national security agencies.

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This latest venture illustrates that despite the highly critical language with which Musk assails Biden and his administration, he is more than content to do business with them. 

The satellites are being built by SpaceX’s Starshield division under a $1.8 billion contract signed in 2021 with the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), an intelligence agency that directs spy satellites.

The contract underscores the extent of SpaceX’s reach in U.S. intelligence and military projects.

Musk and Biden have clashed frequently in the past, and both men have criticized each other’s leadership and views.

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SpaceX is building hundreds of spy satellites under a classified contract with a U.S. intelligence agency, demonstrating deepening ties between billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk ‘s space company and national security agencies

The satellites are being built by SpaceX's Starshield division under a $1.8 billion contract signed in 2021

The satellites are being built by SpaceX’s Starshield division under a $1.8 billion contract signed in 2021

These satellites can operate as a swarm in low orbits, track targets on the ground, and share data they gather with U.S. intelligence and military officials.

They would endow the government with the ability to capture continuous imagery of activities on the ground nearly anywhere on the globe.

The network of spy satellites represents one of the government’s most sought-after capabilities in space because it is designed to offer the most persistent, pervasive and rapid coverage of activities on Earth. 

“No one can hide,” someone familiar with the program said. 

If the joint venture is successful, the program would dramatically improve the government’s ability to spot potential targets almost anywhere on the globe.

The Pentagon is already a big SpaceX customer, using its Falcon 9 rockets to launch military payloads into space. Starshield’s first prototype satellite, launched in 2020, was part of a separate, roughly $200 million contract that helped position SpaceX for the subsequent $1.8 billion award, one of the sources said.

The planned Starshield network is separate from Starlink, SpaceX’s growing commercial broadband constellation that has about 5,500 satellites in space to provide near-global internet to consumers, companies and government agencies.

The Starshield network is part of intensifying competition between the U.S. and its rivals to become the dominant military power in space, in part by expanding spy satellite systems away from bulky, expensive spacecraft at higher orbits. Instead a vast, low-orbiting network can provide quicker and near-constant imaging of the Earth.

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China also plans to start building its own satellite constellations, and the Pentagon has warned of space weapon threats from Russia, which could be capable of disabling entire satellite networks.

Starshield aims to be more resilient to attacks from sophisticated space powers.

The newest spy 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 personnel from the U.S. Space Force and CIA and provides classified satellite imagery for the Pentagon and other intelligence agencies.

The contract signals growing trust by the intelligence establishment of a company whose owner has clashed with the Biden administration and sparked controversy over the use of Starlink satellite connectivity in the Ukraine war.

The Pentagon is already a big SpaceX customer, using its Falcon 9 rockets to launch military payloads into space

The Pentagon is already a big SpaceX customer, using its Falcon 9 rockets to launch military payloads into space

The planned Starshield network is separate from Starlink, SpaceX's growing commercial broadband constellation that has about 5,500 satellites in space to provide near-global internet to consumers, companies and government agencies

The planned Starshield network is separate from Starlink, SpaceX’s growing commercial broadband constellation that has about 5,500 satellites in space to provide near-global internet to consumers, companies and government agencies

Joe Biden is briefed on the deadly drone attack at a U.S. outpost in Jordan, by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and other members of the national security team in the Situation Room at the White House in Washington, January 29, 2024

Joe Biden is briefed on the deadly drone attack at a U.S. outpost in Jordan, by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and other members of the national security team in the Situation Room at the White House in Washington, January 29, 2024

On March 5, Musk alleged that the breakdown at the border was part of Biden-led scheme to import voters.

And he recently announced that he wouldn’t be contributing any of his $188.5 billion fortune to Biden’s or Trump’s candidacies.

The entrepreneur has also styled himself as a champion of anti-wokeness, and he frequently voices his displeasure over Biden’s ‘woke’ policies. 

Biden has been less explicit in his criticism of Musk, but his jabs, although oblique, are nevertheless keen.

The president has consistently snubbed Tesla when lauding the efforts undertaken by electric car manufacturers.

At his State of the Union address two years ago, Biden praised Ford and GM’s work in EVs but failed to mention Tesla.

And in August 2021, Biden didn’t invite Musk to an EV summit at the White House, despite Musk being the CEO of the largest electric vehicle company in the US. 

Biden’s neglect culminated in the creation of a petition calling for the president to recognize Tesla and its status as the leading EV manufacturer. The petition was made by fans and it garnered almost 40,000 signatures.

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But the relationship between Musk and Biden remains fruitful and this latest contract is for a sophisticated new spy system with hundreds of satellites bearing Earth-imaging capabilities.



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