The Air Force plans to award up to two preliminary design review contracts with a total worth of as much as $214 million.
During the 18-month period of performance, selected contractors will develop preliminary system designs, radar performance analyses, evaluations and prototypes, and conduct other technical activities and, after completion of the phase in 2012, a separate production contract award is expected to lead to final system development, fielding and full operational capability.
Space Fence will replace the existing Air Force Space Surveillance System, or VHF Fence, which has been in service since the early 1960s.
The new system will use S-band ground-based radars to provide the Air Force with uncued detection, tracking and accurate measurement of space objects, primarily in low-Earth orbit. The geographic separation and the higher wave frequency of the new Space Fence radars will allow for the detection of much smaller microsatellites and debris than current systems.
Lockheed said its design would also improve the speed at which operators could detect space events that could threaten GPS satellites or the International Space Station.
"The 2009 collision of an operational communications satellite with a defunct satellite illustrates the real risk space debris poses to both our manned and unmanned space missions," said John Morse, director of Lockheed Martin's Space Fence program. "Space situational awareness is a national security priority and Space Fence will greatly enhance our ability to track and catalog orbiting objects which number in the tens of thousands."
Lockheed's team on the project includes General Dynamics, AT&T and AMEC.
The Lockheed-led team in 2009 was one of three industry teams awarded a $30 million contract to begin concept development for Space Fence. It reduced risks for its solution by prototyping, designing and performing trade studies and analysis of potential system configurations.
Last August the team completed a successful system design review for Space Fence. Final prototyping demonstrations will be performed for the Air Force before the end of this year.