SpaceX has quietly announced a new government-focused service on its website — Starshield — which it says offers a “secured satellite network for government entities.” The page, which appeared on the SpaceX website earlier this week, says that while its satellite internet service Starlink is aimed at end users and businesses, “Starshield is designed for government use.”
The announcement of Starshield follows work that SpaceX has already done with the US and other governments around the world. In August SpaceX signed a $2 million deal with the US Air Force to provide satellite internet access, and Starlink has also proved crucial to Ukrainian forces as they defend themselves against Russia’s invasion of the country (though the technology has not been without its issues). Just last month the Pentagon said it was testing Starlink connectivity in the Arctic in what’s seen as a potential way to offer connectivity to US troops, Bloomberg reported.
SpaceX has already signed multi-million dollar contracts with the US government
Starshield is advertised with three areas of focus: earth observation, communications, and “hosted payloads,” which CNBC notes would effectively allow governments to customize what its spacecraft can send into space. SpaceX says that Starlink already offers “end-to-end user data encryption” but that Starshield has additional security that can meet “the most demanding government requirements.” However, the exact capabilities and scope of the network were not detailed.
Other claimed features include the use of an “inter-satellite laser communications terminal” which would allow SpaceX’s hardware to communicate with partner satellites and function as part of the same network.
Although Starlink initially gained attention as a way for rural customers to get faster internet, recent announcements have highlighted larger-scale deployments like satellite internet for commercial planes. It’s this kind of scale that’s arguably going to be necessary if SpaceX wants to reach its previously reported goal of making over $30 billion from satellite internet connectivity by 2025.