Elon Musk-owned SpaceX may be building spy satellite network for US agency

Elon Musk’s space company, SpaceXis reportedly building a network of hundreds of spy satellites. A report has said that this work is being done under a classified contract with a US intelligence agency.
Citing five sources familiar with the program, news agency Reuters reported that SpaceX’s Starshield business is building a network under a $1.8 billion contract that was signed in 2021 with the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), an intelligence agency that manages spy satellites.
The report said that the leaked plans reveal SpaceX’s role in building a massive network of low-Earth orbit satellites aimed at supporting ground forces for the US military. If successful, the sources say, it will “significantly advance the ability of the US government and military to quickly spot potential targets almost anywhere on the globe.”
The Wall Street Journal reported last month about the existence of a $1.8 billion classified Starshield contract. The revelation of SpaceX’s participation in the project marks a significant disclosure. The agency said that the “new spy system” will have hundreds of satellites bearing Earth-imaging capabilities that can operate as a swarm in low orbits.
Currently, Musk’s SpaceX has launched scores of Starlink satellites – creating a constellation of satellites – that work in tandem to provide internet at various places on the globe. The report, however, did not have any information on when the new network of satellites will come online.
What NRO has to say
The NRO confirmed to the news agency about the existence of the mission to develop a sophisticated satellite system and its partnerships with other government agencies, companies, research institutions and nations, but declined to comment on SpaceX’s involvement.
“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 spokesperson was quoted as saying.
What these satellites can do
Reportedly, the satellites can track targets on the ground and share that data with US intelligence and military officials. The sources also told the publication that in principle, the US government can quickly capture continuous imagery of activities on the ground almost anywhere on the globe, aiding intelligence and military operations.
“No one can hide,” one of the sources said of the system’s potential capability.
Roughly a dozen prototypes have been launched since 2020, among other satellites on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets, three of the sources were quoted as saying. Furthermore, several satellites deployed by SpaceX have not been acknowledged by the government and the company.