A new ground-based radar that Northrop Grumman [NOC] is developing for U.S. Space Force will provide greater capabilities than legacy systems for detecting and tracking objects in deep space, according to a company official.

The Deep-Space Advanced Radar Capability (DARC) “will provide higher sensitivity, better accuracy, more agile tracking of objects in deep space orbit,” Kevin Giammo, director, space surveillance and environmental intelligence, told Defense Daily in an interview during the recent Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo.

These advanced capabilities “to track, to observe, characterize objects in deep space” will allow the Space Force to maintain “custody of objects in space,” Giammo said.

The Space Force’s Space Systems Command in February awarded Northrop Grumman a $341 million contract to develop, manufacture and deliver the first DARC, which will be sited somewhere in the Indo-Pacific region with completion expected in 2025. There will be follow-on contracts for two additional sites in other locations around the world to ensure complete coverage of deep space.

The command says that the precise tracking of debris and objects in space will allow operators to be alerted in time to maneuver a satellite away from danger. The new radar will also allow for the detection and tracking of adversarial threats, it said.

U.S. Space Command has a number of assets used for space surveillance to maintain space domain awareness. Northrop Grumman supplies the Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program satellites of which six are on orbit as part of the Space Surveillance Network and can maneuver near an object of interest for further characterization.

Northrop Grumman also provided the Ground-Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance (GEODSS) System telescopes that track deeps space objects. GEODSS is used at night and can be impacted by poor weather and cloud cover whereas the new DARC system will operate around-the-clock in all weather.

DARC will provide a “much broader view,” Giammo said.

Northrop Grumman’s legacy in radar and space situational awareness also extends to its work sustaining ground-based missile warning and tracking systems, including the PAVE PAWS and Ballistic Missile Early Warning System dating back decades. These systems also provide space tracking capabilities, Giammo said.

Work on DARC is proceeding rapidly and will include agile development processes to spiral in capabilities as the system is developed, tested and built, he said.

“We do increments and we work with our customer to make sure we understand we have a good sense of the requirements,” Giammo said. “We have objectives, we develop it, we keep doing tests, keep checking with the government, build as we go, so it’s a flexible way to get things done quickly.”