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SpaceX is working with the National Reconnaissance Office to build a classified system of swarming spy satellites, according to a report published by Reuters.
And while the $1.8 billion contract was reportedly signed in 2021, news of the program’s ties to NRO just leaked on Saturday—a great reminder that it’s entirely possible for some tech companies to do highly classified work for years without the public learning about it.
Astronomers Could Soon Get Warnings When SpaceX Satellites Threaten Their View CC Share Subtitles OffEnglish view video Astronomers Could Soon Get Warnings When SpaceX Satellites Threaten Their ViewThe new satellite spy network is being built under SpaceX’s Starshield unit, which also manages Starlink satellite internet.
The program is described by Reuters as consisting of, “hundreds of satellites bearing Earth-imaging capabilities that can operate as a swarm in low orbits.”AdvertisementThe five sources of information on the new program aren’t named in the new Reuters article, though one anonymous source is quoted as saying that “no one can hide” from the new satellite system.
AdvertisementFrom Reuters:The satellites can track targets on the ground and share that data with U.S. intelligence and military officials, the sources said.
In principle, that would enable the U.S. government to quickly capture continuous imagery of activities on the ground nearly anywhere on the globe, aiding intelligence and military operations, they added.
[…]The Starshield network is part of intensifying competition between the U.S. and its rivals to become the dominant military power in space, in part by expanding spy satellite systems away from bulky, expensive spacecraft at higher orbits.
Instead a vast, low-orbiting network can provide quicker and near-constant imaging of the Earth.
AdvertisementThe Wall Street Journal first reported on the existence of a new satellite program being developed by SpaceX in February, but Reuters was the first to provide new information about the customer for what sounds like an incredibly powerful new spy system.
SpaceX and its founder Elon Musk have received criticism over the past two years as the billionaire has expressed skepticism that the U.S. should be involved in helping Ukraine during its fight against Russia’s invasion.
The war started in Feb. 2022 and has killed tens of thousands on both sides, but Musk has become vocally opposed against the U.S. continuing to help its ally with intelligence and weapons.
That would appear to be a big problem for the U.S. military establishment, since Ukraine is so dependent on Starlink satellite internet for command and control in the battlefield.
AdvertisementMusk infamously denied Ukraine use of Starlink to mount a counterattack of Russian forces in Crimea, a story told by his biographer Walter Isaacson, that was awkwardly walked back at Musk’s insistence after the book was published.
But whatever actually happened in Crimea, there appears to be nervousness within the Pentagon about how reliant the U.S. military has become on Musk.
And the leak of this latest contract between SpaceX and NRO proves the public probably doesn’t know the half of it.
As Reuters explained in the new report on Saturday:The network is also intended to greatly expand the U.S. government’s remote-sensing capabilities and will consist of large satellites with imaging sensors, as well as a greater number of relay satellites that pass the imaging data and other communications across the network using inter-satellite lasers, two of the sources said.
AdvertisementNRO was formed in 1960 on the heels of some major failures by the U.S. Air Force to get a military satellite program up and running.
The shoot down and capture of U-2 pilot Gary Powers by the Soviet Union in May 1960 was a highly embarrassing international incident for Dwight D. Eisenhower’s administration, which made it obvious the U.S. needed to get some proper mechanical eyes in the sky that couldn’t be shot down by adversaries.
The establishment of NRO in 1960 was an attempt to make the nation’s spy satellites an independent agency that could service U.S. military customers and U.S. intelligence agencies without causing turf wars.
Giving an agency like CIA, for example, sole control of spy satellites could lead to unnecessary internal competition with other agencies.
At least that’s the way Eisenhower’s science advisors thought about it at the time.
AdvertisementWhile a system of swarming satellites deployed by U.S. intelligence may sound futuristic, it’s important to remember U.S. imaging capabilities are already incredibly advanced and frankly make the 1998 surveillance thriller Enemy of the State look like a documentary.
As just one example, the existence of ARGUS-IS, a 1.8 gigapixel camera developed by Darpa and BAE Systems, was revealed in a January 2013 episode of the PBS documentary “Rise of the Drones.”The ARGUS-IS could provide images of an entire U.S. city, while allowing users to zo

According to a Reuters report, SpaceX and the National Reconnaissance Office are collaborating to develop a classified system of swarming spy satellites. It’s also possible that some tech companies are working on highly classified projects for years without disclosing them to the public. Although the $1.8 billion contract was supposedly signed in 2021, information about the program’s connection to NRO only surfaced on Saturday.

When SpaceX satellites endanger their view of CC Share subtitles off, astronomers may soon receive warnings.

English view video When SpaceX satellites threaten astronomers’ views, they may soon receive warnings.

Under SpaceX’s Starshield division, which also oversees Starlink satellite internet, a new satellite spy network is being constructed. Reuters states that “hundreds of satellites bearing Earth-imaging capabilities that can operate as a swarm in low orbits” make up the program. “.

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Although one anonymous source is quoted as saying that “no one can hide” from the new satellite system, the other five sources of information on the program remain unidentified in the latest Reuters article.

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from Reuters:.

The satellites can monitor ground-based targets and transmit the gathered data to the U.S. s. officials from the military and intelligence services, the sources said. That would essentially allow the U. s. They said that this would enable the government to support military and intelligence operations by swiftly obtaining continuous imagery of ground activities almost anywhere in the world. [. ].

Part of the growing rivalry between the U.S. S. and its competitors to emerge as the leading military force in space, largely by extending spy satellite networks beyond heavy, costly spacecraft to higher orbits. Alternatively, faster and almost continuous Earth imaging can be obtained by a large, low-orbiting network.

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Although the Wall Street Journal first revealed in February that SpaceX was working on a new satellite program, Reuters was the first to offer fresh details about the intended user of what appears to be a very potent new spy system.

Over the previous two years, SpaceX and its founder Elon Musk have come under fire as the billionaire has voiced doubts about the U.S. s. ought to be actively involved in supporting Ukraine as it repels Russia’s invasion. In February, the war broke out. tens of thousands of people on both sides as of 2022, but Musk has started to publicly criticize the U.S. s. keeping up its intelligence and armament support for its ally. It seems like a major issue for the U.S. s. military establishment, given that the country’s command and control in the military is heavily reliant on Skype for the Internet.

Publicity.

According to his biographer Walter Isaacson, who unceremoniously recanted the account after the book was released, Musk famously denied that Ukraine had used Starlink to launch a counteroffensive against Russian forces in Crimea. However, the Pentagon seems uneasy about how dependent the U.S. is on Russia, regardless of what actually transpired in Crimea. S. Musk now has the military on him. Furthermore, the fact that the most recent contract between SpaceX and NRO was leaked shows that the general public is probably unaware of most of it.

As stated by Reuters in the updated report published on Saturday:.

Additionally, the network aims to significantly increase the U.S. s. the government’s remote-sensing capabilities and will include a larger number of relay satellites that use intersatellite lasers to transfer communications and imaging data across the network, in addition to large satellites equipped with imaging sensors, according to two of the references.

Promoting something.

1960 saw the formation of NRO following a number of significant setbacks by the U.S. s. Air Force to launch a military satellite program. An extremely embarrassing international incident for Dwight D. Eisenhower’s administration occurred in May 1960 when the Soviet Union shot down and captured U-2 pilot Gary Powers. This incident made it clear that the U. s. needed to install some reliable mechanical eyes in the sky that enemies couldn’t shoot down.

The NRO was founded in 1960 in an effort to turn the country’s spy satellites into a stand-alone organization that could support U.S. s. military clients as well as U. S. intelligence services without starting conflicts over territory. Possessing exclusive control over spy satellites, as in the case of the CIA, might encourage needless internal rivalry amongst agencies. Eisenhower’s scientific advisors at the time, at least, felt that way about it.

Promoting something.

While an array of swarming satellites put in place by the U.S. S. intelligence may sound futuristic, it’s important to remember U. S. Imaging capabilities are already very sophisticated, to the point where, to be honest, Enemy of the State, a 1998 thriller about surveillance, looks more like a documentary. In a January 2013 episode of the PBS documentary “Rise of the Drones,” for instance, the existence of ARGUS-IS, a 1.8 gigapixel camera developed by Darpa and BAE Systems, was made public. “.

Images spanning the entire U could be obtained with the ARGUS-IS. s. city, but also giving users the ability to focus on any area and see enough detail to photograph a person waving their arms. Furthermore, one can reasonably assume that the facts of U. s. 2013 saw far more sophisticated spying capabilities than the general public was permitted to witness on PBS. Not to mention how SpaceX’s swarming satellites might alter the rules in low Earth orbit, it is mind-boggling to consider what resolution America’s eyes in the sky can achieve ten years from now.

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According to a recent Reuters report, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets have launched about a dozen prototypes for this new swarming system along with other satellites that are most likely for civilian use. However, such practices are not at all novel. Even though we still don’t know a lot about the payloads NRO was using to launch into space, as Gizmodo revealed back in 2017, NRO had a significant role in the design of NASA’s Space Shuttle. As it appears to have always been.

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