US Space Force tracks micro objects with Space Fence radar surveillance
The system will be the most sensitive search radar in the USA’s Space Surveillance Network and is said to be capable of detecting objects as small as a marble. As well as improving accuracy of surveillance, it is also intended to enable quicker response times.
Rather than tracking ‘marbles’, however, it will be used to detect and track orbiting objects such as commercial and military satellites, depleted rocket boosters and space debris in low, medium, and geosynchronous Earth orbits.
The system – using Gallium Nitride (GaN) powered solid-state S-band ground-based radars – has been developed by Lockheed Martin since June 2014. The radar “Fence” is physically located on the Kwajalein Island in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, in the Pacific (north east of Papua New Guinea, south west of Hawaii).
Pictured above is Brigadier General DeAnna Burt, Director of Operations and Communications, United States Space Force, formally declaring operational acceptance of the system.
“Space Fence is revolutionizing the way we view space by providing timely, precise orbital data on objects that threaten both manned and unmanned military and commercial space assets,” said Air Force General John W. “Jay” Raymond, the first chief of space operations at the newly created U.S. Space Force.
“Our space capabilities are critical to our national defense and way of life, which is why Space Fence is so important to enhance our ability to identify, characterize and track threats to those systems.”
Before Space Fence, the Space Surveillance Network tracked more than 26,000 objects, says the military, which is now expected to increase significantly.
The Space Fence will be operated by the 20th Space Control Squadron (SPCS) at the Space Fence Operations Center in Huntsville, Alabama. In turn, it provides data to the 18 SPCS located at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, which uses the data to help maintain the space object catalog and screen operational satellites, both maneuverable and non-maneuverable.
General Raymond announced the signing on twitter:
Space Fence is officially Ops Accepted & IOC! Great teamwork w/our partners @LockheedMartin @AF_SMC @PeteAFB to achieve this milestone. Space Fence provides improved #Space Domain Awareness for the @SpaceForceDoD @US_SpaceCom & our Joint & Allied partners! https://t.co/qUDKZL4AX7
— Gen. Jay Raymond (@SpaceForceCSO) March 28, 2020
Lockheed Martin has previously written about the project:
The locations and higher wave frequency of the new Space Fence radars will permit the detection of much smaller microsatellites and debris than current systems. Additionally, Lockheed Martin’s Space Fence design will significantly improve the timeliness with which operators can detect space events, which could present potential threats to GPS satellites or the International Space Station. The flexibility and sensitivity of the system will provide coverage of deep space geosynchronous orbits while maintaining the surveillance fence.
And, writing on the GaN angle, it said:
“These test results represent the culmination of more than a decade of shared investment in GaN technology,” previously said Steve Bruce, vice president, Advanced Systems at Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training. “GaN HPAs provide a significant advantages for active phased array radar systems like Space Fence, including higher power density, greater efficiency and significantly improved reliability over previous technologies.”
You can read more on the company website.
See also: USA swears in First Chief of newly created Space Force