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Space Fence prototype in operation

March 12, 2012 at 6:07 AM

MOORESTOWN, N.J., March 12 (UPI) -- Objects orbiting the Earth -- debris as well as satellites -- are being successfully tracked by a U.S. prototype radar system.

As part of efforts to develop a so-called Space Fence, the Lockheed Martin system uses ground-based radars to enhance the detection, tracking, measurement and cataloguing of objects and debris with improved accuracy and area coverage.

"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 at Lockheed Martin's Mission Systems and Sensors business.

"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."

The U.S. Air Force last month gave final approval of Lockheed Martin's preliminary design for the system, which will eventually lead to the decommissioning of the aging Air Force Space Surveillance System.

"Space Fence will detect, track and catalog over 200,000 orbiting objects and help transform space situational awareness from being reactive to predictive," Bruce said. "The Air Force will have more time to anticipate events potentially impacting space assets and missions.

"Our net-centric design approach allows Space Fence to be easily integrated into the broader U.S. Space Surveillance Network of sensors already operated by the Air Force."

The Air Force awarded Lockheed a $107 million contract last year to develop the prototype system and plans to award a contract for production this year.

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