Tracking and detecting the ever-proliferating space junk has now become a matter of urgency for all space-faring nations, particularly as space-related activities begin to mount in the coming years. Northrop Grumman has now announced the award of a $30 million contract from the USAir Force to develop the first phase of a global space surveillance ground radar system.
The new S-Band Space Fence will be part of the Department of Defense's effort to track and detect space debris, also known as resident space objects (RSO). These consist of thousands of pieces of space debris as well as commercial and military satellites.
The new Space Fence project is intended to replace the current VHF Air Force Space Surveillance System, built in 1961.
According to security experts, the current Space Fence includes nine sites located on a path across the southern United States from Georgia to California along the 33rd parallel and consists of three transmitter and six receiver sites.
The main transmitting station located at Lake Kickapoo, Texas, has an average power output of 766,800 watts feeding a two-mile long antenna array. It provides the primary source of illumination. Two other transmitting stations are located at Jordan Lake, Alabama, and Gila River, Arizona. These stations, with average power output of approximately 40,000 watts each, improve low altitude illumination at the sides of the main beam.
According to Northrop, Australia is a candidate for the first new Space Fence location with two additional sites in other parts of the world also under consideration.