Lockheed Martin has opened a new test facility for Space Fence, which is a second-generation space surveillance system currently being built for the US Air Force (USAF).
The company has built the facility in New Jersey as part of a $914m contract awarded by the USAF in June 2014.
Construction at the six-acre Space Fence site, which is 2,100 miles southwest of Honolulu, is currently underway.
The facility will be used to test hardware, firmware and software for Space Fence.
Space Fence will have the ability to detect, track, and catalogue orbital objects more than 1.5 million times a day to predict and prevent space-based collisions. It will use S-band ground-based radars to provide uncued detection, tracking and accurate measurement of space objects, primarily in low-earth orbit.
Lockheed Martin's Space Fence will replace the existing USAF Space Surveillance System, or VHF Fence, which has been in service since the early 1960s.
Lockheed Martin Space Fence director Bruce Schafhauser said: "We are one step closer to dramatically improving space situational awareness and increasing orbital debris monitoring by tenfold.
"By using an open-architecture system, Space Fence can adapt to future missions requiring various tracking and coverage approaches."
The company is using latest monolithic microwave integrated circuit technology, including Gallium Nitride (GaN) semiconductor materials within the Space Fence radar design.
Upon completion of the construction, Space Fence will be tested and validated before its initial operating capability occurs in late 2018.
The site will also provide early lessons learned on installation of the S-band ground-based radars, support maintenance training and allow engineers to test verification procedures.
To date, Lockheed has deployed more than 400 operational S-band arrays across the world.
Image: The Space Fence testing facility is representative of the larger GaN-based system under construction on the Marshall Islands. Photo: courtesy of Lockheed Martin.