A new Air Force system built by Lockheed Martin [LMT] that is still technically in testing helped to detect the breakup field from India’s recent anti-satellite test during a scheduled exercise, the company said May 22.
Once operational, the service’s new Space Fence surveillance system will detect and track satellites and space debris in orbit. But it already began tracking objects from the April anti-satellite test during a scheduled endurance exercise of the new radar, Lockheed Martin said in a Wednesday statement.
As a microsatellite destroyed by the ASAT test was expected to pass through the un-cued surveillance fence, Space Fence automatically issued a “breakup alert” indicating there were multiple objects within close proximity, the company said. “Space Fence observed a significant amount of debris tracks surrounding the time of the event crossing labeled as uncorrelated targets. Long-arc tracking was initiated within the orbital debris cloud to form accurate initial orbit determinations. With this information, the system was able to automatically predict and correlate the next crossing time.”
“Although the Space Fence system is still under test, it continues to demonstrate its advanced capabilities providing operationally-relevant information in all orbital regimes from Low-Earth Orbit through Geosynchronous Earth Orbit,” said Rob Smith, vice president and general manager of Radar and Sensor Systems for Lockheed Martin.
“As multiple new mega constellations consisting of thousands of satellites become a reality and the space domain continues to become more congested, the demand for more accurate and timely space situational awareness data will be of the utmost importance to the warfighter,” he added.
Lockheed Martin began work on the Space Fence in 2009, and the system is located on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Testing began in early April, the company said.
“Space Fence is already proving itself as a capable system even before becoming operational,” said Col. Stephen Purdy, director of the Space Superiority Systems Directorate, at Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base. “The Indian test showcased Space Fence’s capabilities in a real-world event. The system was able to quickly respond to a highly dynamic situation providing critical data.” Purdy oversees the Space Fence development under his directorate.