'Space Fence': Pentagon Awards $915M Contract to Lockheed Martin

Thursday, 05 Jun 2014 08:09 AM

By Clyde Hughes

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Lockheed Martin won the Pentagon contract for the so-called "space fence" Monday, a system that will track and catalog space debris circling the planet with a radar system established on the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean.

The company received the $915 million contract over Raytheon, according to The Washington Post. Lockheed Martin said in a statement that its "space fence" will use an advanced ground-based radar system to detect an estimated 200,000 objects orbiting the earth.

The military contractor said in its statement that the detailed detection system will allow it to predict where these floating junk items are headed in order to protect operating satellites and other assets, including the International Space Station.

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"Space-based technologies enable daily conveniences such as weather forecasting, banking, global communications and GPS navigation, yet everyday these critical services are being threatened by hundreds of thousands of objects orbiting Earth," Dale Bennett, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin's mission systems and training business, said in a statement.

"Space Fence will locate and track these objects with more precision than ever before to help the Air Force transform space situational awareness from being reactive to predictive," Bennett continued.

Lockheed Martin said it will start to construct the space-fence system on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands in early 2015 with plans for a fully operational system by 2018.

The Post reported that space debris has grown after more than 50 years of spaceflight. The junk includes spent rocket boosters and defunct satellites. Officials told the newspaper that, when these objects crash into each other, it creates even smaller floating objects.

The current warning system used by the Pentagon has issued some 10,000 warnings of close calls to the U.S. and international satellite owners, according to The Post. The Pentagon alone operates 1,200 satellites.

Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, said the space fence has long been a priority but has been delayed and cut back because of budget constraints, Space News reported.

"We know that we've got to get better at [space situational awareness] because of the debris problem, because of the threat problem," Shelton said in February.

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