Technology 2 min read

What the New SpaceX Defense Contract Means for the Starlink Project

SpaceX just gained a huge contract with the U.S Department of Defense. Could this be the boost their Starlink project needs to get into orbit? | Image By Vladi333 |

SpaceX just gained a huge contract with the U.S Department of Defense. Could this be the boost their Starlink project needs to get into orbit? | Image By Vladi333 |

After 18 rocket launches in 2017, SpaceX set a new record in 2018 with 21 launches.

Among many achievements, the Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral for the last time in 2018 with a U.S. Air Force GPS III satellite in its cargo.

Then, the company kicked off its 2019 launch schedule with another success. On January 11, a reusable Falcon 9 launched 10 satellites for Iridium Communications.

However, a week after the first successful launch for the year, SpaceX announced mass layoffs.

The company said that it would cut off 10 percent of its workforce. The decision will touch about 600 employees occupying different positions.

“To continue delivering for our customers and to succeed in developing interplanetary spacecraft and a global space-based Internet, SpaceX must become a leaner company.”

SpaceX is getting leaner because, for the next couple of years, it will have a lot on the line.

Of the many interests of the agency, one of the least talked about arms of their portfolio is their SpaceX defense contract.

The U.S. Air Force, First Client of the SpaceX Defense Contract

The world is waiting on the test launch of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, scheduled within the next few weeks.

Next on the SpaceX priority list is the launch of its own constellation of satellites, called Starlink.

Until now, SpaceX mainly worked at transporting uncrewed ships to the ISS or into Earth’s low-orbit. But Elon Musk’s company also quietly lined up a SpaceX defense contract with the U.S. Department of Defense.

The latest contract SpaceX won with the U.S. Air Force gives a big boost to its Starlink Project.

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), headquartered in Ohio, awarded SpaceX a $29 million contract involving space-based broadband internet.

The agreement between SpaceX and AFRL; “allows for experimentation in the areas of establishing connectivity, operational experimentation, and special purpose experimentation. Experimentation will include connectivity demonstrations to Air Force ground sites and aircraft for experimental purposes.”

For Phase 2 of the experimentation, SpaceX; “proposes to perform experiments in two other key areas: early versions of a commercial space-to-space data relay service and mobile connectivity directly from space to aircraft.”

The contract, due to be completed by June 2021, is important for the U.S. Air Force as a big step towards its DEUCSI program, or Defense Experimentation Using Commercial Space Internet.

Would SpaceX’s Starlink Project ultimately spell the end of the earth-based Internet?

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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