SpaceX awarded contract to help develop US missile-tracking satellite network

SpaceX has secured a contract valued at just shy of $150 million by the U.S. Space Development Agency, a branch of the U.S. military that is tasked with building out America’s space-based defense capabilities. The contract covers creation and delivery of “space vehicles,” aka actual satellites, that will form a constellation offering global coverage of advance missile warning and tracking.

Alongside SpaceX, the SDA also granted a contract for the same capabilities valued at nearly $200 million for L3Harris. That company is a U.S.-based defense contractor and tech company formed by the merger of Harris and L3 last year, combining the two legacy contractors to create one of the top 10 largest defense companies globally. It’s no surprise that L3Harris would be tapped for this work, but SpaceX’s award is definitely a new extension of the company’s business.

These satellites will apparently resemble the Starlink satellites that SpaceX has already been deploying to make up its own broadband internet constellation (although with different payloads, of course). Starlink is designed as a low-Earth orbit constellation that can achieve global coverage through volume and redundancy, providing benefits in terms of cost and coverage when compared to traditional geostationary satellites.

The U.S. has repeatedly expressed an interest in building out space-based defense resources that use small satellites, citing advantages in terms of speed of deployment, as well as responsiveness and the ability to build in redundancy that could be useful in case of attacks on any resources by potential enemy actors.

If SpaceX becomes a more frequent provider not only of launch services, but also of spacecraft including satellites, it could open up plenty of new lucrative long-term revenue opportunities, particular when it comes to defense and national security contracts.