WASHINGTON, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Defense has contracted Lockheed Martin and Raytheon for the Space Fence Program to detect and track space debris in low Earth orbit.
Raytheon's Integrated Defense Systems, which has headquarters in Sudbury, Mass., was given a $107 million contract for a preliminary design, the department said. Lockheed's Mission Systems & Sensors of Moorestown, N.J., also received a $107 million contract to help in the "space fence" development.
The United States tracks small man-made objects in space -- so-called space junk -- that could pose a danger to satellites and spacecraft but says a system that can track smaller debris is required.
Two years ago an operating satellite and a defunct satellite collided, adding debris to that already orbiting the Earth.
According to the publication Defense Update, the envisaged system would be of higher resolution to be able to focus on high-priority assets, alerting the International Space Station or other critical space assets of potential collisions with debris.
Each company is expected to complete preliminary design, performance analysis and prototype evaluation by the mid-2012. The follow-on production contract could be worth as much as $3.5 billion.