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Center officials award Space Fence preliminary design contracts

by Chuck Paone
66th Air Base Group

2/3/2011 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- Electronic Systems Center officials have issued two competitive contract orders, each worth $107 million, for preliminary design of the Space Fence program. They awarded the contracts to Raytheon Corp.'s Integrated Defense Systems and Lockheed Martin Corporation's Mission Systems & Sensors Division.

The Space Fence program, with a total anticipated value of more than $3.5 billion, will deliver a system of geographically dispersed ground-based sensors to track space debris and provide timely assessment of space events, said program manager Linda Haines.

"That will allow us to reduce susceptibility to collision or attack, improve the space catalog accuracy and provide enhanced space flight safety," she said.

ESC officials released a request-for-proposal announcement in late October for this phase of the program.

During the 18-month period of performance, the contractors will be expected to develop preliminary system designs, radar performance analyses, evaluations and prototypes, and to conduct other technical activities. The work will address critical technology elements and critical manufacturing processes, key technical risks and production and life cycle costs to reduce total program technical, cost, schedule and performance risk.

"This will be done through the development of an approved, allocated baseline that meets or exceeds technology and manufacturing readiness levels demonstrated in robust prototypes of critical technology components and manufacturing processes," Ms. Haines said.

The goal is to have the system in full operation by September 2015.

Space situational awareness, or SSA, is now a national security priority, Ms. Haines said, with findings provided to Congress highlighting just how complex, congested and contested space is becoming. The Space Fence will form the foundation for full SSA by providing U.S. Strategic Command officials joint space-control capabilities.

Those capabilities will offer better uncued surveillance, providing improved timeliness, higher cataloguing accuracy and completeness, launch coverage and object characterization.

"All of these contribute to space flight safety in the increasingly congested space environment," Ms. Haines said.

The "fence" is created by the strategic placement of multiple radars that cover enough continuous area to track space objects when they enter the Earth's orbit at certain angles. The land-based, geographically dispersed sites will significantly improve the timeliness of "space event detection."

After completion of this phase in 2012, ESC officials expect to award a final development and production contract that will lead to final system development, fielding and full operational capability.

In June 2009, they awarded three $30-million competitive, multi-contractor concept development contracts. That work provided system design and architecture trades and analyses. It also supplied modeling, simulation and prototyping.

Those efforts, only two of which continued after February 2010 due to budget restrictions, were completed in December. They include detailed analyses of key performance parameters -- number, size, and range of objects and the number and location of ground sensors -- measured against cost and current and evolving space environments.

Work on the current phase should provide a solid technical basis to price the next phase at reasonable risk, Ms. Haines said.

The work will support the critical Independent Technology Readiness Assessment and Air Force and Defense Department cost positions. It also will enable source selection activities to award the final development/production contract and begin the Engineering Manufacturing Development phase.

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