The Pentagon considers taking control of SpaceX’s Starship

Space X

The Pentagon is discussing with SpaceX the possibility of directly managing the Starship for sensitive missions, a major development in military space strategy.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) recently expressed interest in taking over SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft for specific, sensitive and potentially dangerous missions. This move marks a potential strategic shift in the use of commercial space technologies for military applications. Instead of being content with launch contracts, the Pentagon plans to manage the Starship as a government asset, a first in the history of collaborations between the private space sector and the US government. This development, discussed at the Space Mobility Conference, underscores the growing importance of space transportation capability in defense and national security operations.

The Pentagon’s strategic initiative

The Pentagon has approached SpaceX with an unprecedented proposal: to take direct charge of the Starship for sensitive missions, rather than following the traditional route of launch contracts. The proposal reflects a recognition of the unique capabilities offered by the Starship, particularly for high-risk missions or those requiring a high degree of discretion. The Department of Defense’s request is part of a drive to explore more flexible and responsive space operations, tailoring the use of commercial space technologies to the specific needs of national security.

Gary Henry, senior advisor at SpaceX, emphasized that the discussions focused on specific missions where the risk is high or the use potentially dangerous for the Department of Defense. The ability for the government to own and operate a Starship as a dedicated asset for these missions highlights an innovative approach to managing space assets for defense applications.

Space X

Background and implications of enhanced collaboration

This proposal comes at a time when the US military is increasingly recognizing the strategic importance of space as an operational domain. SpaceX, with its Starship program, represents a key commercial partner for the Pentagon, notably thanks to its ability to propose innovative solutions for transporting payloads into space. The initiative reflects an evolution in defense strategies, emphasizing agility and adaptability to commercial space technologies to meet specific operational requirements.

Colonel Eric Felt, Director of Space Architecture for the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisition and Integration, pointed out that while commercial procurement remains the norm, some uses require direct government control. This flexibility would enable the Pentagon to respond quickly and effectively to operational challenges, with the ability to transfer ownership and operation of a commercial space vehicle as needed.

Towards a new era of military space missions

The potential for the Pentagon to take control of the Starship for specific missions paves the way for a new era of military space missions. This approach could strengthen the United States’ ability to carry out complex space operations, increasing its strategic advantage in an increasingly contested field. In addition, it could encourage greater collaboration between the commercial space sector and the government, leveraging private sector innovations and technological capabilities for defense applications.

The discussion between the Pentagon and SpaceX about direct management of the Starship for specific military missions marks a potential turning point in the use of commercial space vehicles for national defense. This initiative underscores the growing importance of space as a strategic operational domain, and could set new standards for collaboration between the commercial space sector and the US government. While the details of this proposal have yet to be finalized, the potential impact on military space strategy and national security promises to be significant.

War Wings Daily is an independant magazine.