SpaceX’s Starshield unit has had a classified contract with the US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) since 2021 to build a network of “hundreds” of spy satellites for the agency, Reuters reports today, citing unnamed sources “familiar with the program.”

A Wall Street Journal report in February listed a classified $1.8 billion SpaceX contract with a then-unnamed government agency. Now Reuters has attached a name, and that it’s to build a network of “hundreds of satellites bearing Earth-imaging capabilities that can operate as a swarm in low orbits.”

The report didn’t say when the network will be operational or what other companies are involved. It does mention that a US database of space objects lists satellites deployed by SpaceX that the company and government have not acknowledged and cites sources confirming those objects as Starshield prototypes.

A screenshot from SpaceX’s Starshield website.
Screenshot: Wes Davis / The Verge

According to Reuters, if the NRO contract is a success, it would “significantly advance the ability of the U.S. government and military to quickly spot potential targets almost anywhere on the globe.

While an NRO spokesperson reportedly declined to comment on Reuters findings about SpaceX’s involvement, it confirmed to the outlet that it’s working to develop “the most capable, diverse, and resilient space-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance system the world has ever seen.”

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