U.S. Space Force Announces Initial Operational Capability And Operational Acceptance Of Space Fence

Space Fence facility – Kwajalein Island. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin

March 29, 2020 – United States Space Force officials formally declared initial operational capability and operational acceptance of the Space Fence radar system, located on Kwajalein Island in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, March 27, 2020.

Space Fence provides significantly improved space surveillance capabilities to detect and track orbiting objects such as commercial and military satellites, depleted rocket boosters and space debris in low, medium, and geosynchronous Earth orbit regimes.

“Space Fence is revolutionizing the way we view space by providing timely, precise orbital data on objects that threaten both manned and unmanned military and commercial space assets,” said Gen. Jay Raymond, Chief of Space Operations, USSF and Commander, U.S. Space Command. “Our space capabilities are critical to our national defense and way of life, which is why Space Fence is so important to enhance our ability to identify, characterize and track threats to those systems.”

Before Space Fence, the Space Surveillance Network (SSN) tracked more than 26,000 objects. With the initial operational capability and operational acceptance of Space Fence, the catalog size is expected to increase significantly over time. Information about objects tracked by the SSN is placed in the space catalog on www.space-track.org.

The Space Fence Program Office (AFLCMC/HBQB) operating under the acquisition authority of the Space and Missile System Center awarded a contract to the Lockheed Martin Co. in June 2014 to develop Space Fence. This system is the most sensitive search radar in the SSN, capable of detecting objects in orbit as small as a marble in low earth orbit (LEO).

Space Fence is operated by the 20th Space Control Squadron (SPCS), Detachment 4, at the Space Fence Operations Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and provides data to the 18 SPCS located at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The 18 SPCS uses the data from Space Fence and other sensors within the SSN to maintain the space object catalog and screen operational satellites, both maneuverable and non-maneuverable, against all objects in the space catalog, which includes satellites, rocket bodies and debris.

“Space is now recognized as a congested and contested domain and Space Fence is the next evolution in our efforts to maintain space superiority,” said Lt. Col. David Tipton, 20th SPCS commander.

Space Fence provides precise positional data for Space Domain Awareness to maintain a robust and accurate space object catalog, ensure orbital safety, and provide early warning for conjunction events and indications of potential threats.

Both the 18th SPCS and 20th SPCS are part of the 21st Space Wing, headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The 21st SW is the Department of the Air Force’s only wing providing ground-based missile warning, missile defense and space surveillance data in defense of North America and its allies.