The Air Force Friday issued its long-awaited final request for proposals (RFP) for its next-generation space debris radar tracking system, according to a recent posting on Federal Business Opportunities.

The system, called Space Fence, will track orbiting objects and other debris passing over the United States that could damage satellites. It will replace the Air Force Space Surveillance System (AFSSS), or VHF Fence, that has been in service since 1961 (Defense Daily, Sept. 26).

Air Force spokeswoman Maj. Tracy Bunko confirmed Tuesday the RFP issued was final.

RFPs for the engineering and manufacturing development and production and deployment phase (EMDPD) are due Nov. 14. The Air Force in late September set a September 2013 construction start date for Space Fence and Air Force Space Command chief Gen. William Shelton also said in September the service is “likely” to award a contract in the spring of 2013 (Defense Daily, Sept. 26, Sept. 19).

The Air Force plans Space Fence initial operating capability (IOC) in fiscal year 2017 and full operational capability (FOC) in FY ’20, according to an Oct. 2 statement of work. The service will put one sensor site at Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands with a possible second site in western Australia, but the Air Force has said nothing has been negotiated nor finalized regarding a second site.

The Space Fence program will provide up to two radar systems operating in the S-Band frequency range, according to a statement of work. The current AFSSS is comprised of three transmitter and six receiver sites located in the continental U.S. Space Fence will enable the Air Force to detect significantly more, and smaller, objects in low Earth orbit and medium Earth orbit than AFSSS.

Lockheed Martin [LMT] and Raytheon [RTN] are competing for the Space Fence contract. Both companies have completed their preliminary design reviews (PDR) (Defense Daily, July 30). Lockheed Martin’s partners for the Space Fence program are General Dynamics [GD], AMEC of Plymouth Meeting, Pa., and AT&T [ATT] (Defense Daily, March 20).

The Air Force values Space Fence at more than $3.5 billion.

View the full RFP here: