SpaceX explains Starshield as a “secured satellite network for government entities.” The Starshield leverages the technology behind Starlink, the company’s consumer satellite network, but boasts capabilities to enable national security efforts.
What does Starshield offer
Not much is known about Musk’s government-focused satellite network, but as per the website, Starshield focuses on three main areas – earth observation, communications, and hosted payloads; the latter would help the government space organisation customise the satellite buses to get the most out of them.
Starshield adds a layer of high-assurance cryptographic capability on top of Starlink’s end-to-end user data encryption, meeting the government’s requirements of hosting classified payloads and secure data processing.
One other feature of Starshield is ‘modular design,’ which means that the bus can be designed to meet diverse requirements, adding the capability of integrating a wide variety of payloads, and being flexible to users.
Starshield utilises Starlink’s inter-satellite laser communications terminal, the only communications laser in orbit currently. This would allow the hardware sent to space to communicate with partner satellites, working as a part of the same network.
SpaceX lauds its ability to build end-to-end systems as one of the benefits of Starshield. Meanwhile, its proliferated low-earth orbit architecture provides constant connectivity to in-orbit assets at an economical cost.
Musk’s SpaceX has been actively working together with the US, and other governments around the world, providing on-ground and in-space services.
What else SpaceX is working on
Meanwhile, it is scaling up Starlink with plans for large-scale deployment. Recently, the company partnered with T-Mobile to bring satellite connectivity to a wider audience. And it has also announced plans to bring satellite internet for commercial aeroplanes.
Starlink had planned to bring satellite connectivity to India, and reportedly even applied for an experimental licence only to withdraw it later. In 2021, SpaceX opened pre-booking for the service in the country, but later the government directed the company to refund fees as it did not have the required licence.