Lockheed, Raytheon face off in Space Fence competition

Two titans of the defense industry have submitted final contract proposals for the Air Force's ambitious Space Fence program that seeks to field a next-generation, ground-based radar system that will improve the way the service identifies and tracks objects orbiting Earth.

The Space Fence--a large, S-band radar that will be based in Kwajalein atoll, in the Republic of the Marshall Islands--will be capable of not only detecting more objects, but also much smaller objects in low-Earth orbit.

The Air Force's existing legacy Space Surveillance System radar has been operational since 1961. Construction on the new system is expected to begin in fall 2013 with an initial operating capability anticipated in 2017.

The next-generation Space Fence is essential to identify debris that can seriously damage or destroy operational satellites, the ability to ensure that GPS satellite constellations on which U.S. critical infrastructure is dependent remain unharmed and other important reasons.

Lockheed Martin demonstrated its prototype Space Fence radar earlier this year in an effort to prove that it is capable of detecting space objects, the company said in a Nov. 13 statement.

The Bethesda, Md.-based contractor cited its extensive experience with S-band radar development, production and operation and said that its proposal offers "a scalable and affordable" Space Fence system.

Waltham, Mass.-based Raytheon in a Nov. 14 statement pointed to its expertise building large-scale radars in remote locations and its continuing investment in key technologies that enables it to offer "a low-risk solution at an affordable price."

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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