Space is big. Objects in space are very dangerous to each other. Countries that intend to launch objects into space need to know what’s out there, in order to avoid disasters like the 2009 collision of 2 orbital satellites. All they need to do is track many thousands of man-made space objects, traveling at about 9 times the speed of a bullet, and residing in a search area that’s 220,000 times the volume of Earth’s oceans.
The US Air Force Materiel Command’s Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts leads the USA’s Space Fence project. It’s intended to improve space situational awareness by tracking more and smaller objects, while replacing legacy systems in the Space Surveillance Network (SSN) as they retire. With a total anticipated value of around $6.1 billion over its lifetime, Space Fence will deliver a system of 2-3 geographically dispersed ground-based radars to provide timely assessment of space objects, events, and debris. International cooperation will supplement it, as part of overall Space Situational Awareness efforts. Failure is not an option. Or is it?