Elon Musk’s SpaceX Will Help Pentagon Track Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles

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Elon Musk and SpaceX RocketPA Images/Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has landed a lucrative $149 million (£115 million) Pentagon contract to build satellites that can track missiles coming from other countries.

As part of the contract, SpaceX will build four satellites sporting wide-angle infrared missile-tracking technology. The awarding of the contract marks the first phase of the US Space Development Agency’s (SDA) mission to acquire these types of satellites and defend against intercontinental ballistic missiles are among the most difficult to intercept.


The satellite production will be part of Starlink’s broader goal of producing more internet-facing satellites to support a satellite-based internet service. Starlink is a SpaceX offshoot of Musk’s, and he hopes the revenue generated from the project will support SpaceX’s wider space-bound missions.

Starlink satellite launchPA Images

SpaceX will use its Starlink assembly plant in Redmond, Washington to build the four satellites, while L3 Harris Technologies will build a further four satellites using the $193 million (£149 million) from its own SDA contract win.

Both companies are expected to have their satellites ready by 2022, just in time for the SDA’s merger with the US Space Force.

A SpaceX Starlink Satellite Has Nearly Crashed Into A European SatelliteSpaceX

This government contract isn’t the first SpaceX has won in recent years, although it is the first time it will be building satellites for the government.


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SpaceX was awarded a $28 million (£21.6 million) contract from the US Air Force to use its Starlink network to test encrypted internet services for military applications.

Both of these contracts won by SpaceX pale in comparison to the one it was awarded in August 2020. Musk’s company was able to fend off competition from the likes of Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’s space company, to win a Space Force launch contract reportedly worth millions.

SpaceX Launches Earth Observation Satellite for Argentina in Cape Canaveral, US - 30 Aug 2020PA Images

Picking up 40% of the available contracts, SpaceX will help launch 14 military and intelligence satellite missions, while United Launch Alliance – a collaboration between engineering giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin – claimed the remaining 60% of the contracts and will make 34 classified launches, according to Business Insider.

Bezos did, however, get one over on Musk after losing the mammoth Space Force contract. On September 25, Bezos’s Blue Origin beat SpaceX to secure an Air Force contract, with Musk’s rocket system being deemed ‘too risky and expensive’, Reuters reports.

The Air Force had originally awarded the contract to Blue Origin, and despite Musk’s year-long appeal that involved him claiming the contract was unfairly awarded to Blue Origin, his efforts were unsuccessful.


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Topics: News, Blue Origin, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Now, Pentagon, Science, Space, SpaceX, Starlink, Technology


Reuters and 2 others
  1. Reuters

    Musk's SpaceX wins Pentagon award for missile tracking satellites

  2. Reuters

    SpaceX handed loss in challenge over Air Force contract

  3. Business Insider

    How SpaceX outmaneuvered Blue Origin and other rivals to clinch a prized Space Force launch agreement worth billions