Space Fence to Keep an Eye on the Sky
Lockheed Martin submits proposal to enhance Air Force’s identification, tracking of space debris
Since 1957, more than 50 countries have sent more than 6,500 satellites into space. Today, only approximately 560 of them remain operational.
What happened to the rest? Many have fallen out of orbit and disintegrated, while others remain circling the earth, along with spent rockets, collision fragments and even an astronaut space walker’s toolbox. The U.S. Air Force Space Surveillance System (AFSSS) currently collects more than 5 million satellite detections, or observations, each month on objects larger than a basketball orbiting the planet.
Originally installed in 1961, the AFSSS requires replacement, and the Air Force issued a request for proposal for its new Space Fence program that will improve the way it identifies and tracks orbiting objects. Lockheed Martin submitted its Space Fence proposal to the Air Force on Nov. 13.
“The original AFSSS wasn’t designed to detect and track the hundreds of thousands of smaller, high-speed, orbiting objects that are in space today, each potentially threatening the International Space Station, future manned space flight missions and our nation’s other satellite assets,” said Steve Bruce, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for space surveillance systems programs. “With decades of experience developing powerful S-band radar systems, Lockheed Martin has proposed a scalable and affordable Space Fence solution to the Air Force that will transform their definition of space situational awareness.”
Utilizing powerful, new ground-based S-band radar technology, Space Fence will enable the U.S. Air Force to detect, track, measure and catalog orbiting objects and space debris with improved accuracy, better timeliness and increased surveillance coverage.
Using the experience gained by deploying more than 400 S-band radars worldwide, Lockheed Martin demonstrated a prototype Space Fence radar earlier this year capable of detecting resident space objects – the Air Force’s term for orbiting space debris and other objects. Lockheed Martin’s Space Fence team includes General Dynamics, AMEC and AT&T.
Construction of the Space Fence system is planned to start on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands in the fall of 2013, with operations scheduled to begin in 2017.
Posted on November 13, 2012