Raytheon has completed the second preliminary design review (PDR) of the US Air Force's (USAF) Space Fence acquisition programme, aimed at enhancing the warfighter's space situational awareness (SSA).
The PDR was conducted as part of an 18-month, $107m contract secured by the company in January 2011, for the delivery of a preliminary design and testing of a functional Space Fence radar prototype, in support of the programme's Milestone B.
The process involved validation of cost and schedule, as well as the maturity of technology and design by the USAF, in support of transitioning the Space Fence system into production in late 2012.
Raytheon's Integrated Defense Systems (IDS) business Global Integrated Sensors vice president David Gulla said the space debris poses risks for satellites that power navigation, weather and critical infrastructures.
"By building a working Space Fence prototype and employing innovative approaches Raytheon brought to the table, we demonstrated to the U.S. Air Force a cost-effective system that can track a multitude of small objects in space," Gulla added.
Raytheon Space Fence programme director Scott Spence said the company has worked closely with the air force throughout the programme to maximise functionality, simultaneously minimising and mitigating risk upfront.
"This active collaboration ensures that the capability delivered will meet the Air Force requirements for enhanced situational awareness in space at an affordable cost," Spence added.
Raytheon has already demonstrated the radar's technical maturity through its ability to detect and track increasing quantity of space debris orbiting the Earth, during the first three-month PDR in April 2012.
Space Fence is the USAF's multiphase acquisition programme, seeking delivery of up to two, globally positioned, S-band radars to enable accurate detection, tracking, measurement and recording of the objects and debris orbiting the earth.
The radars are scheduled to replace the air force's ageing air force space surveillance system (AFSSS), which has been tracking space debris since the 1960s.