SpaceX continues to get cozier with the US military. The private spaceflight outfit has won a Space Development Agency contract (via Space News and The Verge) to build missile warning and tracking satellites for the Defense Department. The roughly $149.2 million deal will have SpaceX build low Earth orbit vehicles with “wide field of view” infrared sensors that can monitor potential threats and help cue missile defense systems.
SDA director Derek Tournear told Space News the satellites in SpaceX’s bid were a new design, but based on the existing bus from Starlink broadband models. It’s obtaining the infrared sensor from an unnamed supplier.
L3 Harris won a similar contract for about $193.6 million. The SDA hopes to launch a combined eight satellites from both companies by the end of 2022, and plans
This is SpaceX’s first Defense Department satellite deal, and reflects the company’s expansion beyond its initial business of making rockets for orbital missions. On top of making Starlink satellites, it’s expanding its rocketry with plans for Starship to handle space tourism and interplanetary journeys. SpaceX might not be absolutely integral to the US government’s plans, but it’s clearly more important than ever.