The existence of the one-year contract was confirmed to Bloomberg by Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek, who said it was awarded Sept. 1. Under the agreement, SpaceX will provide “end-to-end Starshield service across the Starlink constellation, user terminals, ancillary equipment, network management and other related services.” The contract is capped at $70 million, with $15 million committed to the company by the end of this month, and is expected to support 54 mission partners across the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.
SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But, in response to reports about the deal on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, SpaceX founder Elon Musk wrote that “Starshield will be owned by the US government and controlled by the Department of Space Force.” Defense,” leaving Starlink as a “civilian network” that “is not a combat participant.”
The deal adds to other defense contracts won by SpaceX. CNBC notes The Pentagon is already a “high-value buyer” of SpaceX rocket launches.
News of the contract emerged after a period of intense scrutiny of SpaceX’s role in Ukraine, where it has provided internet connectivity to the country’s military as it attempts to fight invading forces from Russia. In Walter Isaacson’s recently published Musk biography, the author reported that last year, Musk refused to extend Starlink coverage to Russian-occupied Crimea, hampering Ukraine’s military operations.
Starlink’s role in the conflict has inadvertently concentrated a great deal of geopolitical power in Musk’s hands. “Although Musk is not technically a diplomat or a statesman, I felt it was important to treat him as such,” is how one political official described his approach to the SpaceX founder in a recent feature in the New Yorker. In June of this year, Bloomberg reported The Pentagon had signed a contract to pay SpaceX for satellite connectivity for the Ukrainian military.