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Pentagon wants to buy from SpaceX its own 100-satellite Starshield constellation

The Pentagon is so impressed with its experience using SpaceX’s Starlink system as well as its military-hardened version dubbed Starshield that it is negotiating the purchase from SpaceX of its own 100-satellite Starshield constellation.

Col. Eric Felt, director of space architecture at the office of the assistant secretary of the Air Force for space acquisition and integration, said the plan is to acquire a constellation of Starshield satellites by 2029, contingent upon receiving the necessary funding appropriations from Congress.

Speaking at SAE Media Group’s Milsatcom USA conference on June 10, Felt noted that the military has been an avid consumer of SpaceX’s commercial Starlink services, but also wants to take advantage of the company’s dedicated Starshield product line and procure a government-owned constellation. In a briefing slide presented at the conference, titled “Satcom 2029,” Felt showed the DoD’s notional future satcom architecture including more than 100 Starshield satellites.

If approved for funding from Congress, this Starshield constellation would be used in conjunction with other military communciations satellites, which could also include satellites provided by other satellite companies such as Amazon and its as-yet unlaunched Kuiper constellation. The main advantage for such a system is redundancy. It is very difficult for an enemy to take the system down, since it uses so many small satellites. It is also cheaper to maintain and upgrade.

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On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.


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  • Ronaldus Magnus

    Well, how about a good ol fashioned swap. For every five StarLink satellites, the administration provide two SuperHeavy AND Starship launch licenses, in both Boca Chica and Florida. It is ‘fair’ and ‘equitable.’

  • David K

    I wonder how long it will take for them to want “earth observation” satellites, “space junk removal” satellites, etc. There is a lot that similar constellations can do with military applications.

  • mkent

    The Pentagon is already developing its own LEO comsat constellation which, unlike Starlink, is compatible with most of the radio links already in use by the military. 19 prototype satellites have already been launched, development testing should be complete, and operational testing is scheduled for this summer. If all goes according to plan, launches of the operational satellites should commence this fall.

    What would Starlink do that the PWSA can’t?

  • pzatchok

    Its cheaper and now.

  • mkent

    ”Its cheaper and now.”

    No, it’s not. Just the opposite. The PWSA prototypes are already on orbit undergoing operational testing right now with operational satellite launches only months away. Starshield won’t launch until 2029.

  • pzatchok

    If the military is offering to buy it then it must already be in testing and proven enough for them.

    Plus their requirements might have changed.
    They might want something as simple for Space X to make as a starshield satellite with military only encoding and frequencies. Switching out the transmitters and receivers would be nothing for them. They are already making and flying them for the Ukraine and other world customers.

    “The PWSA prototypes are already on orbit undergoing operational testing right now with operational satellite launches only months away”

    Look at what your saying. They might be failing the testing and as we know, other than Space X, rocket launches are never “just” months away.

    19 prototypes is a waste of government money.

    Fast manufacturing is something some companies get and some do not.

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