Upgraded ‘Space Fence’ will make it safer for satellites as ‘junk’ proliferates

Military Tech
Space Fence US Space Force

(2014, Lockheed Martin / YouTube)

MYSTERY WIRE — The US Space Force has finished testing its upgraded system to make space safer by tracking thousands of objects floating out there.

The system, known as a “Space Fence” is a ground-based radar system that hasn’t changed in years. Meanwhile, new satellites are going up all the time, and space junk is a growing problem.

A March 4 report from strategypage.com indicates a huge leap is about to happen in the system’s capabilities, allowing it to track as many as 200,000 objects, some as small as 4 inches in length.

READ: Space: Upgrading orbital safety

The system will be valuable in managing orbit paths and avoiding collisions that could disable satellites and produce yet more space junk. And it will be a valuable “eye” for the Space Force as it embarks on its mission to handle all aspects of space warfare.

Additional detail comes from Popular Mechanics, which has covered the story for years:

The new Space Fence is designed to detect objects as small as four inches from low-Earth orbit (roughly 99 to 1,200 miles) but also medium-Earth orbit (1,200 to 22,000 miles) and geosynchronous orbit (22,000 miles and beyond).

Popular Mechanics, Feb. 7: The US Space Force is ready to turn on its all-seeing ‘Space Fence’

Lockheed Martin built the “fence,” which is based on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, about 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii.

A 2014 video made before construction began describes Lockheed’s project:

And just how big is the space junk problem?

“NASA estimates that up to a half million such objects with a diameter between 0.4 and four inches are circling the Earth, at a speed of 22,000 miles an hour. Any man-made spacecraft entering orbit with these objects, particularly manned spacecraft or space stations, risks a catastrophic accident,” according to Popular Mechanics.

And keep in mind that something as small as a screw could punch a hole in the wall of the International Space Station. An object believed to be a “paint flake” cracked a window.

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