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New space debris monitoring facility set for Australia

"We consider the strategic partnership with Lockheed Martin a major step towards the achievement of critical mass of sensors, data and services, all of which are critical in providing detailed yet easily usable information on space debris."
By Richard Tomkins   |   Aug. 29, 2014 at 2:48 PM   |   Comments

DENVER, Aug. 29 (UPI) -- A facility for tracking space debris is to be developed by Lockheed Martin and Australia's Electro Optic Systems Pty Ltd.

The facility will be located in the state of Western Australia and feature a combination of lasers and sensitive optical systems to detect, track and characterize the man-made objects.

Site technologies will be able to zoom in on specific objects, enhancing the Space Fence system of the U.S. Air Force, which will track some 200,000 objects above the Earth, Lockheed said.

Using advanced sensors and software, the new site will focus on specific objects and determine how fast they're moving, what direction they're spinning, and what they're made of.

Imagery and information will be provided to commercial as well as military customers.
"Ground-based space situational awareness is a growing priority for government and commercial organizations around the world that need to protect their investments in space," said Rick Ambrose, executive vice president, Lockheed Martin Space Systems. "Through this agreement with Electro Optic Systems, we'll offer customers a clearer picture of the objects that could endanger their satellites, and do so with great precision and cost-effectiveness."

Added Electro Optic Systems Chief Executive Officer Ben Greene: "The partnership with Lockheed Martin will help both organizations establish a global network of space sensors, while simultaneously increasing the market reach of the partners' data and services."

"We consider the strategic partnership with Lockheed Martin a major step towards the achievement of critical mass of sensors, data and services, all of which are critical in providing detailed yet easily usable information on space debris."

Space debris, also called space junk and space clutter, is the result of man's march to the stars. It consists of spent rocket components, disused satellite fragments from disintegrating equipment. Debris can be smaller than a baseball to larger than a motor vehicle and pose a potential danger in the launching new spacecraft into orbit and those already in orbit, such as the International Space Station.

The U.S. Air Force, has tracked debris for decades, is establishing a new system for tracking and monitoring it. It's known as Space Fence. Lockheed Martin is providing S-band ground-based radars for the system under a U.S. Air Force contract with a potential value of $1.5 billion.

"Space-based technologies enable daily conveniences such as weather forecasting, banking, global communications and GPS navigation, yet every day these critical services are threatened by hundreds of thousands of objects orbiting the Earth," said Dale Bennett, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin's Mission Systems and Training business. "Space Fence will locate and track these objects with more precision than ever before to help the Air Force transform space situational awareness from being reactive to predictive."

Ground structures for the Air Force/Lockheed system are to be built next year on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands by a General Dynamics business unit under a Lockheed Martin contract.

Electro Optic Systems manufactures space-related technologies and operates a laser ranging and debris tracking facility.

Other organizations involved in tracking and monitoring space debris is the European Space Agency and Indra, a Spanish firm that has developed a prototype radar demonstrator.

© 2014 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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