MONS Correspondent Marty Kauchak files this end-of-the-day report from the Space and Missile Defense (SMD) Symposium, Von Braun Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
The US Air Force (USAF) Space Fence programme is conceptually designed to increase the military space enterprise’s situational awareness of the approximate 20,000 small objects “seen” now, and potentially threatening military and commercial spacecraft, by about 10-fold – to approximately 200,000.
“We’re looking at an approximate early 2019 IOC (initial operational capability) for Space Fence,” Matthew Hughes, manager for business development for Space Fence and Space Surveillance Programs, Lockheed Martin, told MONS at his conference floor booth.
The Moorestown, New Jersey-based manager added the Space Fence infrastructure on Kwajalein, Marshall Islands, is about 85% complete. “We plan to be up and radiating by the end of this year and then integrated with our operations center here in Huntsville in first quarter 2018. That will allow us almost one year prior to IOC to obtain operationally relevant data and verify the capabilities of the system.”
Asked about the return on invest from Space Fence to the USAF customer, the corporate manager offered: “We’ll be able provide critical data to facilitate conjunction assessments. This is basically uncued detection, tracking and accurate measurement of space objects, primarily in Low Earth Orbit [LEO] and Medium Earth Orbit [MEO]. We can also do specialized tasking and cued searches, simultaneously with uncued detection as well.” And as significant, “due to Space Fence's design architecture, which includes inherent flexibility, the programme will provide significant capability to the warfighter in all range regimes from LEO through Geostationary Earth Orbit [GEO],” he concluded.
Space Fence will be integrated into the overarching US Space Surveillance Network, which is under the oversight of the Joint Functional Component Command for Space, part of the United States Strategic Command.
Lockheed Martin’s main industry partners are AMEC Foster Wheeler (architecture and engineering, and construction management) and General Dynamics Mission Systems (antenna structure).
A scaled integration testbed at Lockheed Martin’s Moorestown facility has permitted the company to track objects since January 2016 to help mitigate risk in the final system.