The contract was announced by the US Space Development Agency this week. Worth nearly $150 million – around £115 million – it will see Elon Musk’s rocket firm provide “delivery of space vehicles and optical wide field of view payloads”
The tracking satellites form part of a first-generation ‘Tracking Layer’ – a group of satellites which will monitor the Earth for defence purposes.
This ‘layer’ will consist of eight satellites initially. They will be equipped with sensors which will be able to provide missile launch warnings to the US.
The SDA said: “This set of contract awards will initiate the development of the first eight low-cost proliferated WFOV SVs.
“The capability demonstrated by the Tracking Layer Tranche 0 will provide missile warning and tracking information to national defence authorities, and tracking and cueing data for missile defence elements.”
Another contract, worth nearly $200 million, was also awarded to L3 Harris technologies, again from “on-time delivery of space vehicles and optical wide field of view payloads”.
SpaceX is known for its self-landing rockets and plans to send a manned mission to Mars.
In August, the company won a contract to launch 40 percent of the US Space Force’s secretive missions between the years of 2022 and 2027.
The remaining 60 percent of launches are due to be handled by the United Launch Alliance.
According to Engineering & Technology, the Space Force contract could be worth up to $5 billion, though it could be as low as £2 billion.
US Air Force official William Roper said: “Maintaining a competitive launch market, servicing both government and commercial customers, is how we encourage continued innovation on assured access to space.”
Yesterday, SpaceX launched another 60 Starlink satellites into orbit from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
It re-used the same Falcon 9 booster which carried NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station earlier this year.
The launch means the number of Starlink satellites in orbit is approaching 1,000.
Their purpose is to beam satellite internet down to Earth for people to pay to use, though SpaceX say the coverage is still in its early stages.
There are plans to put nearly 12,000 of the satellites into orbit in future, though this could increase even further.
Already, emergency responders in Washington State have been using the service following the destructive wildfires which hit the area in August this year.