SpaceX Starshield, Custom Modular Satellites and Earth Observation

Starshield is a huge deal SpaceX to grow huge business for secure communications for the military, government and some other customers. However, they also talk about modular custom satellites with rapid development and deployment. SpaceX will get into the high volume custom satellite business.

SpaceX will also get into Earth Observation satellites.

In December 2022, SpaceX announced Starshield, a program to incorporate military or government entity payloads onboard a customized satellite bus (potentially based on Starlink Block v1.5 and v2.0 technology. The Starshield satellites are heavier than Starlink satellites. They have twice the area as a single Starlink v1.5 and have two pair of solar arrays as opposed to one on Starlink Block v1.5. Starshield is designed for US government use, with an initial focus on three areas, namely, earth observation, communications and hosting payloads.

Designed to meet diverse mission requirements, Starshield satellites are advertised as capable of integrating a wide variety of payloads, offering unique versatility to users. Starshield satellites will be compatible with and will connect to the existing commercial Starlink satellites via optical inter-satellite links.

In January 2022, SpaceX deployed four national security satellites for the US government on their Transporter-3 rideshare mission. In the same year they launched another group of four U.S. satellites with a single on-orbit spare Globalstar FM-15 satellite in June. Their purpose was not disclosed at the time of launch, but was considered likely either technical demonstration, communications, earth observation or signals intelligence.

It is suspected the four SpaceX-built Space Development Agency Tranche 0 Tracking Layer satellites due to launch in Q1 2023 are also based on the Starshield satellite bus.

There is a list of Starshield launches.

Starlink itself has multiple tiers of ground station, from ordinary consumer rooftop type to paired extra-tough nautical version. Starshield will have high-end systems with additional high-assurance cryptographic capability and higher prices.

SpaceX will build modular satellites for the military and others. This will enable SpaceX to mass-produce customized satellite constellations for other customers.

1 thought on “SpaceX Starshield, Custom Modular Satellites and Earth Observation”

  1. Elon has to serve his Master in Beijing or he loses his best production facilities and one of his largest markets. The US government should just assume Elon is compromised. Elon should not be involved in systems central to national security.

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