In a defining moment for SpaceX, Elon Musk’s space venture has won a $149 million contract to build missile-tracking satellites for the Pentagon, said the U.S. Space Development Agency (SDA) in a statement on Monday.
The development marks SpaceX’s first government contract to build satellites.
Known for its reusable rockets and astronaut capsules, SpaceX is ramping up satellite production for Starlink, through which Musk aims to prodvide on-demand internet connectivity anywhere in the planet.
Musk is also hoping that Starlink will be able to generate sufficient revenue to help fund SpaceX’s interplanetary goals.
In a statement an official from SDA said, “SpaceX will use its Starlink assembly plant in Redmond, Washington, to build four satellites fitted with a wide-angle infrared missile-tracking sensor supplied by a subcontractor”.
SDA’s awarding of the contracts are part of its first phase to procure satellites to detect and track missiles including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) which are challenging to track and intercept.
In 2019, SpaceX had received $28 million from the Air Force to use the fledgling Starlink satellite network to test encrypted internet services with a number of military planes, although the Air Force had not ordered any Starlink satellites of its own.