Space Fence program moving forward
A graphic depicts resident space objects surrounding Earth. The Space Fence program will provide the ability to detect, track, identify and characterize orbiting objects. (Courtesy graphic)
by Patty Welsh
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs
12/20/2012 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center here recently put out a request for proposal to move the Space Fence program forward.
Space Fence will be a system of up to two land-based radars, the first site located at Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, to track objects entering Earth's orbit. According to program officials, it will form the foundation of improved space situational awareness by expanding the ability to detect, track, identify and characterize orbiting objects such as commercial and military satellites, smaller objects, maneuvering satellites, break-up events and lower inclination objects.
"Space situational awareness is a continual concern and challenge for U.S. and ally nations," said Ken Francois, Space Fence program manager. "The Space Fence program will increase the capability to provide predictability in reducing the chance of a collision or attack."
The RFP is for the final development and construction of the Space Fence Operations Center, Site 1, and an option for Site 2. It is a full and open competition that will conclude with a contract award, currently anticipated in spring 2013. The award will bring the program forward to final system development, fielding and initial operational capability.
During a Defense Acquisition Board held in August, some changes were made to the program's acquisition strategy.
"The most significant change is that we are moving to an incremental approach. Increment 1 includes the Space Operations Center and Site 1 facilities construction and radar build," said Francois. "Increment 2 includes Site 2 and system integration. This approach maximizes our efficient use of resources and will allow us to reduce costs to the Defense Department and the Air Force, ultimately saving money for the taxpayer."
A lot of previous work got the program to this point.
In early 2011, awards were made to Lockheed Martin and Raytheon for an 18-month period of performance to develop preliminary system designs and prototypes and conduct radar performance analyses, evaluations and other technical activities.
As part of that, two preliminary design reviews for the Space Fence program were completed with final events demonstrating working radar prototypes capable of detecting and tracking a resident space object.
"The PDRs were conducted through a series of four detailed incremental reviews, leading up to the two-day final events," said Francois. "This approach was used so the government could review various aspects of the designs over time and provide timely feedback on any issues."
The incremental reviews included overall system design and architecture, radar hardware and software configuration items, allocated baseline, logistics, facilities, test, modeling and simulation along with the radar prototype demonstration. Following the reviews, the contractors worked on risk reduction activities and design maturation.
"All the work up to now and as we go forward is so we can ensure the mature technologies that are needed are available and to reduce risks associated with the program," said Francois.
Initial operational capability for Space Fence is anticipated in 2017 and full operational capability in 2020.