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Prototype Space Fence Now Tracking Actual Orbital Debris

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the neither-a-fence-nor-in-space dept.

Space 33

coondoggie writes "Lockheed Martin says the prototype system it is developing to track all manner of space debris is now tracking actual orbiting space objects. The Space Fence prototype includes new ground-based radars and other technologies to enhance the way the U.S. detects, tracks, measures and catalogs orbiting objects and space debris with improved accuracy, better timeliness and increased surveillance coverage. 'Space Fence will detect, track and catalog over 200,000 orbiting objects and help transform space situational awareness from being reactive to predictive. The Air Force will have more time to anticipate events potentially impacting space assets and missions. Our net-centric design approach allows Space Fence to be easily integrated into the broader U.S. Space Surveillance Network of sensors already operated by the Air Force.'"

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Finally (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39306597)

The Earth can yell "get off my lawn" and have it mean something.

Re:Finally (2)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#39306685)

The Earth can yell "get off my lawn" and have it mean something.

Too late, 200,000 kids already on the lawn.

we're gonna need a bigger lawn

Re:Finally (2)

squidflakes (905524) | more than 2 years ago | (#39306909)

Yes, but will it keep the space kids off our space lawn?

Weird name (4, Insightful)

fahlesr1 (1910982) | more than 2 years ago | (#39306615)

Seems like a better name would be "SpaceWatch" or something. The word "Fence" implies it can block debris . When I think of tracking I typically don't think of fences.

Still, sounds like a neat project.

It was their 2nd choice. (5, Funny)

yogidog98 (1800862) | more than 2 years ago | (#39306715)

MPAA ruled out their first choice, so they use the closest synonyms they could find:
Sky->Space, Net->Fence.

Re:Weird name (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39306843)

They will sell "surplus" Chinese satellites if you don"t ask too many questions on where they came from.

Re:Weird name (3, Funny)

mhajicek (1582795) | more than 2 years ago | (#39306879)

Pick up only, will not ship. Location: LEO.

Re:Weird name (2)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#39306865)

Seems like a better name would be "SpaceWatch" or something. The word "Fence" implies it can block debris . When I think of tracking I typically don't think of fences.

Still, sounds like a neat project.

It's putting me in mine of Opus's Star Wars project, tying billions of dollars together in space to form a big net. Oliver Wendell Jones tries to sell congress on it, "Whaddya think? Too goofy?" -- Followed by newspaper headlines: THEY BOUGHT IT!

YOU HAVE SPACE FENCE!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39307019)

With as much as even the summary hammers the term over and over, it sounds like these guys yelling [youtube.com] .

Re:Weird name (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39307467)

Its called a fence b/c the radar scans a slice of the sky and in 'uncued' mode detects items that cross the fence or a sclice of sky, not a volume. But with the S band, can then 'cue' and follow the item to get better tracking data with updates...

Re:Weird name (1)

Shavano (2541114) | more than 2 years ago | (#39315939)

I think the "fence" refers to the structure of the transmitting antennas.

Re:Weird name (1)

Nivag064 (904744) | more than 2 years ago | (#39375527)

I think in this case it refers to stolen property, for a 'fence' is someone who buys or sells stolen property. :-)

What we really need (2)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#39306671)

Is Megamaid [photobucket.com]

Don't Track Objects - Collect Them Into +4, Fun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39306827)

Katamari Damacy [youtube.com] .

Better yet, tired of the same old Slashdot stories?:

Roll the Slashdot URL into one big ball with javascript from Kathack [kathack.com] .

Enjoy.

Yours In Cuba,
Kilgore Trout, C.I.O.

The US declares Mars ... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39306731)

to be part of the "axis of EEEEEEEEEvile!".

But will duh "fence" pertect us frum duh ivayshun of duh space terrists? (I'm lookin at y'all, Marvin).

BOO!

Regrets,

Floyd De Buttehead, Arizona Trailer Park Number 43647856698696860922977659009, Lower Paranoid Buttfuque, AZ, USA.

p.s.: who said USA = "Asses of Evil" ?

What one man calls, "obiting space debris" . . . (4, Insightful)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#39306751)

. . . another man calls, "my spy satellite" . . .
As in:
"Hey, you destroyed my spy satellite!"
"Oh, sorry, it looked like space debris to me. I was just trying to tidy up a bit."

Makes sense... (1)

wbr1 (2538558) | more than 2 years ago | (#39306781)

I know it is not NASA, and likely designed largely to protect expensive corporate resources. But still, we send fewer and fewer people up, but we watch every washer and paint fleck that is up there more. Saddens me.

It's called a "fence" because it's bistatic radar (5, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#39306789)

This "fence" system, like some earlier fence systems, is called that because it's a bistatic (or multistatic) radar. The transmitters and receivers are at different locations, and the transmitted beam is not steered. Targets are located by time differences between what's received at multiple receivers. The previous system [wikipedia.org] had three transmitter sites and six receiver sites, spread across the US.

Fence systems are somewhat specialized, but a good way to find everything that crosses the fence volume. Once the RF gear is in place, it's mostly a processing problem. Unlike regular radars, there's no useful information without correlating multiple receiving stations.

Re:It's called a "fence" because it's bistatic rad (5, Interesting)

radionerd (916462) | more than 2 years ago | (#39307315)

Actually, it's the current, working system. Space Weather has a nice link to a receiver that lets you listen to the echos from stuff flying through the fence http://spaceweatherradio.com/ [spaceweatherradio.com] Or you can do it your self....If you're within several hundred miles of Lake Kickapoo, Texas, and have a receiver that can hear 216.98 MHz, you can hear the echos of things flying through the fence... Big fun if you're a radio nerd :-)

Re:It's called a "fence" because it's bistatic rad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39309471)

That is wrong. Its called a "fence" because it is a wide field-of-view system that will track objects similarly to the way you stated. However, the reason for the "fence" description is wrong. The bistatic nature of the sytem is due to the high power requirements of the transmitter and the lack of need for multiple transmitters. Think of the sunlit moon, you have one sun but everyone who is not obscured by clouds can see the moon at night (and sometimes during the day) during a full or partially lit moon. The same goes for a radar such as the space fence - one transmitter can "light up" the debris while many receivers give the best chance of "catching" a signal from a randomly oriented piece of debris.

Re:It's called a "fence" because it's bistatic rad (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39309507)

Right now there are close to 500,000 pieces of debris larger than 1 cm in low-earth orbit. The space fence will try to catch 200,000 of those. The data processing problem is huge - you have to determine that the piece of space junk that crossed the fence is the same that crossed the fence on the next pass. When you have 200-500k pieces, that means that there are at least four objects per square degree - the moon is about half a degree so there is always (on average) one piece of space debris in front of the moon. This is not an easy problem!

Got a better use for that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39306791)

Point it at the Southern border.

Holy Junk! (3, Interesting)

Niscenus (267969) | more than 2 years ago | (#39306951)

That summary ignores we already have that!

It only sounds interesting if you A) Don't know that we've had that capability since NORAD tracked Sputnik with similar projects done by every major space administration on Earth, or B) Didn't bother reading the infrastructure proposed.

And now, the troll that has a joke for, "Holy Junk!"

Re:Holy Junk! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39308197)

I think it's a difference in terms of number of objects that can be tracked. Sputnik was the first satellite. Now there are thousands of objects along with all of the space garbage floating around out there. I believe that whats important (and worth fighting over the billion dollar goverment contracts) is sifting out which of the objects is not supposed to be there, and at what point it should be considering dangerous.

Re:Holy Junk! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39308213)

It's currently tracking around 5k objects, with a radius of 1m or so. This will up that to 200k objects at a radius of 5cm or so (at least as I understand it).

So, it's just scaling into the 21st century.

RTFA is Not Allowed on Slashdot (1)

Niscenus (267969) | more than 2 years ago | (#39310539)

Yes, but the reason why it's of interest isn't actually explained in the summary. I realise now, however, that I said, "Didn't." when I meant, "Did;" so, fair enough, but I stand behind the title of this reply.

why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39307383)

Doesn't NASA already do this?

Space superiority. (3, Interesting)

MrQuacker (1938262) | more than 2 years ago | (#39307873)

We will soon reach a point where not having such predictive capabilities will doom any launched vehicle to a debris collision. Its interesting to think that such a program provides so much space superiority over other nations.

Re:Space superiority. (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#39308311)

We will soon reach a point where not having such predictive capabilities will doom any launched vehicle to a debris collision. Its interesting to think that such a program provides so much space superiority over other nations.

It's also interesting to think that blasting several rockets into orbit, then exploding them to create more debris is a rung reachable by even the lowliest of space faring nations.

Tracking and collecting space junk could become very important if even one such nation decides: "If I can't have it, no one can!"
IIRC, China tested their capability to create space debris [spacewar.com] by destroying a satellite.

"Space Fence Now Tracking Actual Orbital Debris" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39310599)

So... the headline here is, "thing does what it's supposed to do"?

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