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First contract for SpaceX’s defense-focused Starshield satellite internet business

SpaceX received its first U.S. Space Force contract for Starshield, its defense-focused Starlink satellite internet service.

The one-year contract can reach $70 million, a U.S. Air Force representative told Bloomberg. “The contract provides for Starshield end-to-end service via the Starlink constellation, user terminals, ancillary equipment, network management and other related services,” the representative said. Award date: September 1.

SpaceX will receive $15 million by the end of the month to support over 50 mission partners from all U.S. military branches.

SpaceX activated the service in Ukraine and sent large shipments of Starlink terminals to civilians and the Ukrainian military in the early months of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, bringing Starlink into the spotlight.

However, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk disputed Starlink’s role in Ukrainian defense. Musk initially supported sending Starlink terminals to the Ukranian military, but he refused to activate the service before Ukraine attacked Russia’s navy.

Starshield, announced last December, should clarify using commercial services in war operations. The company announced Starshield on its website, saying it “leverages SpaceX’s Starlink technology and launch capability to support national security efforts,” but provided few details.

SpaceX did not comment on the new contract, but Musk wrote on X that Starlink and Starshield serving civilian and defense customers is “the right order of things.”

U.S. Space Force is also interested in satellite internet expansion. Because of its “proliferated” architecture of thousands of low-Earth-orbiting satellites, Starlink may be appealing. Having so many assets in space rather than a few exquisite satellites makes the system more resilient to attack.

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