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Space Fence

Lockheed Martin has received a $915m contract from the US Air Force (USAF) for development of Space Fence, a multistatic radar system designed to identify and track space debris.

The company beat out Raytheon to win the contract, which immediately provides $415m for research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) efforts, while the remaining amount will be earned in the next 52 months before the company reaches initial operational capability (IOC).

Claimed to be a key asset in USAF’s space situational awareness (SSA) plans, Space Fence is a multiphase acquisition programme seeking delivery of up to two, globally positioned, S-band radars to enable accurate detection, tracking, measurement and recording of objects and debris orbiting the Earth.

The system will replace the existing Air Force Space Surveillance System (AFSSS), which was tracking space debris since the 1960s, and was decommissioned in September 2013 due to budgetary constraints.

Under the contract, Lockheed will start construction of the first S-band radar on Kwajalein Island in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, located in the Pacific Ocean. The radars are planned to be located at strategic sites globally to expand surveillance coverage.

The fixed-price-incentive-firm, cost-reimbursable and cost-plus-fixed-fee contract also includes a series of options, which cover possible construction of second radar site in the western Australian city of Perth, as well as a pair of logistic support contracts for the first site, reported AirForceTimes.

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"The system will replace the existing Air Force Space Surveillance System."

The second site option, however, could be awarded only after the Kwajalein site achieves IOC in 2018.

Lockheed, which leads a team comprising General Dynamics (GD), AMEC and AT&T, had demonstrated its prototype radar’s capabilities as part of an 18-month, $107m Space Fence prototype contract awarded along with Raytheon in January 2011.

Raytheon has a ten-day window to protest the decision; spokesman Mike Nachshen said, "Raytheon has been notified by the Air Force on their Space Fence decision; pending our post-decision debrief with the Air Force, it is inappropriate to comment at this time."

Image: Space Fence system provides USAF with the ability to detect, track, identify and characterise orbiting objects. Photo: courtesy graphic.

Defence Technology