SpaceX’s business now is to build satellites, not just provide broadband services around the world,media CNET reported. Elon Musk’s SpaceX is one of two companies contracted by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Space Development Agency (SDA) to build four satellites, each capable of tracking missile threats in low-Earth orbit.
SpaceX will receive contracts worth more than $149 million, while L3 Harris, the main defense contractor, will receive contracts worth more than $193 million, the SDA announced Monday.
The satellite will be developed around an infrared sensor with a wide field of view and even tracking supersonic missiles. SpaceX Administrator Derek Tournear told SpaceNews that the SpaceX satellite will be based on starlink, but the sensors will come from another provider. L3 Harris will produce complete satellites, including sensors, in-house.
SpaceX has launched hundreds of Starlink satellites, and if its broadband super constellation meets all of the company’s ambitions, it will eventually produce tens of thousands of satellites.
The eight satellites will be part of what the SDA calls the first generation of “tracking layers” and must be designed to interface with the “transmission layer” satellites being developed by Lockheed Martin and York Space Systems. Transport layer satellites communicate with tracking satellites and send the information they collect to where they are needed on Earth.
The two companies have until September 2022 to deliver the satellites, and if all goes well, the U.S. military could order up to 30 more tracking satellites to join the system in the coming years.