Space Fence Keeping Track of Final Frontier

Lockheed Martin prototype radar detects resident space object, moves closer to revolutionizing space situational awareness



Lockheed Martin’s prototype Space Fence radar successfully detected orbiting objects and space debris recently. On Feb. 29, the U.S. Air Force approved the system’s preliminary design.

Space is the final frontier, and Lockheed Martin is working to make it easier to navigate.

Lockheed Martin’s prototype Space Fence radar recently met a key contract requirement during a series of demonstration events by successfully detecting orbiting objects and space debris, referred to as resident space objects by the Air Force. The U.S. Air Force approved Lockheed Martin’s preliminary design for the system on Feb. 29.

Using powerful, new ground-based radars, Space Fence will enhance the way the U.S. detects, tracks, measures and catalogs resident space objects by improving accuracy and timeliness and increasing surveillance coverage. Space Fence will enable the decommissioning of the aging Air Force Space Surveillance System (AFSSS), or VHF Fence.

Lockheed Martin developed its Space Fence prototype under an 18-month, $107 million contract awarded by the Air Force in 2011.  The Air Force plans to award a Space Fence production contract later this year, with the first of several Space Fence sites expected to begin operating in 2017.

“The successful detection and tracking of resident space objects are important steps in demonstrating technology maturity, cost certainty and low program risk,” said Steve Bruce, vice president of the Space Fence program for Lockheed Martin. “Our final system design incorporates a scalable, solid-state S-band radar, with a higher wavelength frequency capable of detecting much smaller objects than the Air Force’s current system.”

With more than 60 nations operating in space today, the final frontier is more complex than when the AFSSS started tracking a few hundred objects in 1961. With hundreds of thousands of objects in earth orbit, space debris and the risk of potential collisions threaten national space assets supporting critical systems such as Global Positioning, banking and telecommunications.

Space Fence will detect, track and catalog more than 200,000 orbiting objects and help transform space situational awareness from being reactive to predictive, giving the Air Force more time to anticipate events potentially impacting space assets and missions.

With more than 400 operational S-Band arrays deployed worldwide, Lockheed Martin is a leader in S-Band radar development, production, operation and sustainment. The Lockheed Martin-led Space Fence team includes General Dynamics, AMEC and AT&T.

Posted March 8, 2012