It’s a big win for SpaceX on securing its first contract from the US Space Force. The multimillion-dollar contract will see the space company offer customized satellite communications for the military under its new Starshield program. Founded by Elon Musk, the company is competing against 15 other companies also looking to secure work orders as part of the $900 million program by the Space Force.
Space Force Contract
The space company secured the one-year contract on September 1 with a $70 million ceiling. It requires the company to offer Starshield end-to-end service via the Starlink constellation, user terminals, ancillary equipment, and other related services. SpaceX unveiled Starshield as a new business line last year and has successfully attracted the Pentagon as a high-value buyer.
The US Space Force is looking for satellites that will enable communication from 100 miles to 1,000 miles above the Earth’s surface. SpaceX can offer the satellites under its new Starshield service, which features a constellation of Starlink communication satellites. In June, the company secured a contract of undisclosed value to provide Starlink satellite communications to the Ukrainian military.
SpaceX secured the multimillion contracts given the strides it has made in launching satellites and carrying out space exploration. The new contract expands Musk’s portfolio, becoming a new defense contractor. SpaceX has seen its portfolio of Pentagon-linked business and contracts increase significantly in recent years. It is seen as one of the companies that will accelerate the US push to explore space.
Nevertheless, the company has been embroiled in stiff competition with other companies also eyeing the lucrative contracts from the defense department. United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing Co., poses the biggest competition, given its capability to send up national security payloads to space.
Musk Russia Ties Concerns
Amid the influx of contracts from the US Department of Defense, SpaceX has also been scrutinized amid growing concerns about Musk’s ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Musk’s conversations with Putin have often sparked concerns about his reliability as a Pentagon Supplier, putting SpaceX under lots of scrutiny.
Last year, Musk was embroiled in a fierce standoff after he turned down a request from Ukraine’s government to extend Starling coverage on Russia-held Crimea. Ukraine wanted to use the coverage to carry out a naval drone attack on Russian targets. As SpaceX becomes one of the biggest DOD contractor and a critical industry partner, lawmakers have raised concerns over the company’s willingness to interrupt service at Musk’s request.
The wave of concerns is likely to continue SpaceX’s push to become a prime defense contractor and industry player capable of securing billions of dollars in taxpayer funding. The company has already launched its 67th rocket this year, affirming its workhorse booster.
The Star Link launch marked an important milestone as it was the first time the company reused a Falcon 9 first stage 17 times. SpaceX has been able to push the limits of booster reuse while maintaining a 100% record of success across its Falcon 9 rocket launches.