SpaceX’s Starshield unit has signed a classified contract with the US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) in 2021 to build a network of hundreds of spy satellites for the agency.

In February, a Wall Street Journal report noted a classified $1.8 billion SpaceX contract with a then-unnamed government agency. Now Reuters added the name of the government organization to the report and information that it plans to create a network of “hundreds of satellites with Earth-imaging capabilities that can operate as a swarm in low orbits.”

The report did not say when the network would be operational or which other companies would be involved. It mentions that the US space object database lists satellites launched by SpaceX that have not been recognized by the company and the government, and cites sources that confirm these objects as Starshield prototypes.

SpaceX describes Starshield as a government-focused secure satellite network and Elon Musk tweeted that it is “owned by the US government and controlled by the DoD Space Force.” Last fall, the company signed a contract with the US Space Force to provide the military with satellite communications through Starlink.

If successful, the NRO deal, according to Reuters, “will significantly advance the ability of the US government and military to rapidly spot potential targets almost anywhere in the world.”

While an NRO spokesperson reportedly declined to comment on Reuters’ findings about SpaceX’s involvement, he assured the publication that the NRO is developing “the most capable, diverse and resilient space-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance system the world has ever seen.”

Source: The Verge