A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from pad 39A with the seventh batch of SpaceX broadband network satellites, at the Kennedy Space Center, in Cape Canaveral, Florida, US, April 2020

SpaceX wins Pentagon contract for missile-tracking satellites

Image credit: REUTERS/Joe Skipper TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY/File Photo

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been given a $149m (£114.8m) contract to build missile-tracking satellites for the Pentagon, the US Space Development Agency (SDA) has announced.

SpaceX, known for its reusable rockets and astronaut capsules, is ramping up satellite production for Starlink, a growing constellation of hundreds of internet-beaming satellites that chief executive Elon Musk hopes will generate enough revenue to help fund SpaceX’s interplanetary goals. 

Under the SDA contract, SpaceX will use its Starlink assembly plant in Redmond, Washington, to build four satellites fitted with a wide-angle infrared missile-tracking sensor supplied by a subcontractor, an SDA official said.

Technology company L3 Harris Technologies Inc received $193m (£149m) to build another four satellites, with both companies being expected to deliver the satellites for launch by fall 2022.

The awards are part of the SDA’s first phase to procure satellites to detect and track missiles such as intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Such missiles can travel long distances and are challenging to track and intercept.

In 2019, SpaceX received $28m (£22m) from the Air Force to use the fledgling Starlink satellite network to test encrypted internet services with a number of military planes, though the Air Force has not ordered any Starlink satellites of its own.

In August, the space firm won another contract from the Pentagon, being awarded a 40 per cent share of an agreement with the US Department of Defense to launch payloads for the newly established Space Force.

Last May, the company launched its first batch of 60 small satellites for the Starlink service which will be able to provide internet connections to remote locations around the globe. 

This week (4-10 October) marks the 2020 World Space Week which, this year, is dedicated to satellites and their broad benefits under the theme 'Satellites improve life'. It will show the importance of satellites in daily life and how our lives are affected by satellites such as in communications, environmental monitoring, transportation and in many other ways.

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