Construction will begin next fall on Space Fence an advanced groundbased radar system that will improve how the US Air Force identifies and tracks orbital objects

Space-Fence Construction Is Set For 2013

Dec. 6, 2012
Construction will begin next fall on Space Fence, an advanced, ground-based radar system that will improve how the US Air Force identifies and tracks orbital objects.

Next September, the Air Force will begin construction at its first site for Space Fence, an advanced ground-based radar system. Located on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, this site’s construction puts the program on track to meet its 2017 initial operational capability goal. Using new S-band technology, Space Fence will enhance the way the US detects, tracks, measures, and catalogs orbiting objects and space debris. In addition to improved accuracy, Space Fence will provide the US with better timeliness and increased surveillance coverage.

Once Space Fence is operational, the Air Force will be able to decommission the aging US-based Air Force Space Surveillance System. Installed in 1961, that system was not designed to detect and track the hundreds of thousands of smaller, orbiting objects that are in space today—never mind cataloging them. With its greater sensitivity, Space Fence will be capable of detecting, tracking, and measuring an object the size of a softball orbiting more than 1200 miles in space. Being an uncued tracking system, it also will provide evidence of satellite breakups, collisions, or unexpected maneuvers.

Space Fence will provide this precise positional data on orbiting objects in both low-earth (primary) and medium-earth (secondary) orbits (see figure). Data from Space Fence will be fed to the Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA. That data will be integrated with other Space Surveillance Network data to provide a comprehensive space situational awareness and integrated space picture.

Air Force Space Command will award a contract valued at an estimated $1.9 billion over seven years to build the radar. Last month, Lockheed Martin submitted its final proposal to the US Air Force to build Space Fence. Earlier this year, the company demonstrated its prototype Space Fence radar, which proved that it could already detect resident space objects. The Lockheed Martin-led team includes General Dynamics, AMEC, and AT&T. Raytheon Co. also has submitted a proposal for the Space Fence program.

Until the final design is determined, it is unknown exactly how many personnel will be required to construct the radar site. Once the radar is operational, a long-term workforce of approximately 10 to 15 contractor personnel will most likely be needed at Kwajalein to maintain the radar.

About the Author

Nancy Friedrich | Editor-in-Chief

Nancy Friedrich began her career in technical publishing in 1998. After a stint with sister publication Electronic Design as Chief Copy Editor, Nancy worked as Managing Editor of Embedded Systems Development. She then became a Technology Editor at Wireless Systems Design, an offshoot of Microwaves & RF. Nancy has called the microwave space “home” since 2005.

Sponsored Recommendations

Wideband MMIC LNA with Bypass

June 6, 2024
Mini-Circuits’ TSY-83LN+ wideband, MMIC LNA incorporates a bypass mode feature to extend system dynamic range. This model operates from 0.4 to 8 GHz and achieves an industry leading...

Expanded Thin-Film Filter Selection

June 6, 2024
Mini-Circuits has expanded our line of thin-film filter topologies to address a wider variety of applications and requirements. Low pass and band pass architectures are available...

Mini-Circuits CEO Jin Bains Presents: The RF Engine of the 21st Century

June 6, 2024
In case you missed Jin Bains' inspiring keynote talk at the inaugural IEEE MTT-S World Microwave Congress last week, be sure to check out the session recording, now available ...

Selecting VCOs for Clock Timing Circuits A System Perspective

May 9, 2024
Clock Timing, Phase Noise and Bit Error Rate (BER) Timing is critical in digital systems, especially in electronic systems that feature high-speed data converters and high-resolution...