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Military Capabilities

AFA 2018: USAF to begin testing Space Fence by end of 2018

21 September 2018
Since May 2018 Lockheed Martin's Space Fence has been tracking space debris and receiving operationally relevant data in preparation for its eventual handoff to the USAF in mid-2019. Source: Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin has completed construction of its Space Fence radar on Kwajalein Island in the Marshall Islands and has been tracking space objects using the full-up radar as the company prepares to hand over testing to the US Air Force (USAF) later in 2018.

Space Fence, designed to track space debris in low earth orbit (LEO) and geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO), conducted its first track in February using a smaller-sized aperture as part of a risk-reduction effort. Lockheed Martin has scaled up the radar and has been tracking space debris full-up since May, Matt Hughes, manager of Space Fence business development for Lockheed Martin, told Jane’s .

“We have been receiving operationally relevant data and our goal has been to use that data in the integration and test phase that we are in currently to shake out the remainder of requirements that we have to verify,” he said.

Once Lockheed Martin works through the remaining items to integrate and the remaining requirements to verify, it will transition Space Fence to the air force for development, test, and evaluation (DT&E). That effort will be led by the USAF’s 45th Test Squadron out of Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

Upon completion of DT&E, Space Fence will move into operational T&E (OT&E) led by the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Community.

“We are looking to turn this capability over to the air force in mid-2019,” Hughes noted.

A cornerstone of Lockheed Martin’s risk-reduction effort has been to stand up an integration test bed in Moorestown, New Jersey. There, Lockheed Martin built a small piece of the large array that is on Kwajalein. The test bed provided a place to conduct early integration and testing of Space Fence’s hardware, software, and firmware. The company was also able to verify 60% of its system-level requirements before setting foot on Kwajalein, Bruce Schafhauser, programme director for Lockheed Martin’s Space Fence, told Jane’s .

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