General Dynamics SATCOM Technologies is partnered with prime contractor Lockheed Martin to design and build the ground structures and integrate the mechanical systems for the U.S. Air Force Space Fence program. The new advanced ground-based radar system that will enhance the way the U.S. detects and tracks orbiting objects in space, preventing space-based collisions.
Space Fence Radar & Ground System
General Dynamics will provide the design and construction of ground structures for the Space Fence program, which will expand the range of current radars used to track space debris, and will allow operators to track objects that are much smaller. The improved situational awareness will help protect space-based assets like the International Space Station from potential collisions that could severely damage, disable or destroy it.
The ground structures will house the Space Fence radar elements and other operations related to the Space Fence system. Just like the precision radio-telescope antennas, General Dynamics' expertise in building exceptionally large, exquisitely engineered structures will contribute to keeping the satellites we depend on for communications, weather forecasting and other services from colliding with space debris. Construction of the Space Fence ground system began mid-2015 on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
The Dangers Of Space Junk
According to the NASA, there are hundreds of thousands of small- to medium-sized particles orbiting Earth that pose a danger to space-based assets, many of which are currently difficult or impossible to track from Earth. Most of the particles are remnants of past space missions, including upper stages of rocket launch vehicles and satellites that exploded or collided with other objects. Of the known orbital debris particles which are tracked on a regular basis, more than 20,000 are greater than 10 cm in diameter.
The greatest concentration of debris is between 450 and 500 miles above Earth’s surface, and travels at impact rates up to about 22,000 miles an hour. At such speeds, collisions with even small pieces of debris can be devastating to manmade equipment such as satellites and spacecraft. Currently, based on existing tracking methods, the International Space Station and some commercial satellites need to be repositioned up to several times a year just to avoid the risk of collision.