Lockheed Martin has won a follow-on contract from the US Air Force (USAF) for the next phase of Space Fence, a programme that will revamp the way the USAF identifies and tracks objects in space.

Under the $107m, 18-month contract, Lockheed will further develop and prototype its ground-based radar system design in preparation for a final Space Fence production contract next year.

The Space Fence will increase space situational awareness and enhance safety for both manned and unmanned space operations.

It will field two or three high-power, S-band ground-based radars to provide the air force with detection, tracking, accurate measurement and cataloguing of resident space objects, primarily in low-earth orbit.

It will replace the existing air force space surveillance system located in the continental US. The Space Fence radars will be located at strategic sites globally to expand worldwide surveillance coverage.

The new system’s initial operational capability is scheduled for 2015.