Starshield: what is this secret SpaceX project?

SpaceX is setting up a brand new space project it has never talked about before: Starshield. This project is primarily for one client: the United States Government.

This is a new section that didn’t exist on the SpaceX site not long ago. Next to the sections dedicated to its rockets (Falcon 9, Starship, Falcon Heavy) and its services (Starlink, space shuttle, crew transport), the American company has added a new tab: “Starshield”, which one could translate as star shield .

The name is bombastic, but perhaps a little misleading. It is not a question of pushing back threats that would come from space, but of a service intended for the US government. The goal ? Provide a solution for the United States so that Washington has a ” secure satellite network to meet national security needs.

Starshield is a surprise because Elon Musk never talked about it – at least not on Twitter — even though the person in question had previously indicated that one of SpaceX’s priority missions is to carry out missions of this nature. SpaceX’s Twitter account never mentioned either any program called Starshield.

Observation, secure communication and “payload”

The site presents Starshield as a tool tailored for military applications. Three solutions are mentioned:

  • An ability to observe the globe with images,
  • Secure state communication
  • Receiving “payload”.

This vague vocabulary suggests that SpaceX will integrate special equipment (unspecified at this stage) onto its satellites.

It is clear that Starshield must be able to be integrated into the Starlink satellite network, which already has several thousand units in low Earth orbit. The site does not say whether Starshield will require a modified architecture, particularly for the Starlink satellites to provide imaging and payload transport.

A lift off of a Falcon 9 rocket which will be used in favor of the Starshield. // Source: Bill Ingalls

Given the sensitive nature of the exchanges passing through Starshield, SpaceX ensures that this network, in addition to the encryption already in place with Starlink, will also integrate a ” extra high-security cryptographic capability to host classified payloads and securely process data that meets the most stringent government requirements. »

Another faculty performed with Starshield, which already exists with Starlink: the laser link between satellites. By doing so, partner satellites with a similar capability will be able to join the Starshield network. These light-based communications are an unrecognized skill of Starlink, but one that can span hundreds and even thousands of miles.

The closeness between the government and SpaceX is not a new fact: we know that the American company regularly launches satellites on behalf of the Pentagon. We also know that his boss, Gwynne Shotwell, said she was not opposed to the prospect of putting space weapons into orbit if it is to defend the country.


Source: Kathy2408

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