Author Topic: Space Fence To Be Shutdown  (Read 14076 times)

Offline arachnitect

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Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« on: 08/08/2013 07:58 PM »
A couple days old; do we have a thread on this anywhere else?

http://www.spacenews.com/article/military-space/36655shelton-orders-shutdown-of-space-fence

Quote
The U.S. Air Force is shutting down a key part of its network for tracking satellites and orbital debris, possibly as soon as Oct. 1, according to an Aug. 1 memo obtained by SpaceNews.

Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, “has directed that the Air Force Space Surveillance System be closed and all sites vacated” effective Oct. 1, the memo said.

It's not the entire tracking network, but it is one of primary tracking assets. Replacement is also on hold at this time.
« Last Edit: 08/08/2013 08:19 PM by Chris Bergin »

Online edkyle99

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #1 on: 08/08/2013 08:55 PM »
A couple days old; do we have a thread on this anywhere else?

http://www.spacenews.com/article/military-space/36655shelton-orders-shutdown-of-space-fence

Quote
The U.S. Air Force is shutting down a key part of its network for tracking satellites and orbital debris, possibly as soon as Oct. 1, according to an Aug. 1 memo obtained by SpaceNews.

Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, “has directed that the Air Force Space Surveillance System be closed and all sites vacated” effective Oct. 1, the memo said.

It's not the entire tracking network, but it is one of primary tracking assets. Replacement is also on hold at this time.
The contract to operate this thing was only $7 million or so annually.  How much will it cost to replace a satellite that is destroyed by a piece of undetected debris?

Money savings doesn't seem, to me, to be the real reason for this shutdown.  This was originally a Navy (NRL) system, developed during the early days of the Space Age but only transferred to Air Force around 2004.

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 08/08/2013 08:59 PM by edkyle99 »

Offline Lurker Steve

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #2 on: 08/08/2013 09:18 PM »
This must be part of the plan to make sequestration as painful as possible.
I can't think of any other reason to shut this down while still reviewing the more expensive replacement options.

Offline arachnitect

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Online edkyle99

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #4 on: 08/15/2013 01:54 AM »
This must be part of the plan to make sequestration as painful as possible.
I can't think of any other reason to shut this down while still reviewing the more expensive replacement options.


I still can't make any sense of this.  Shutting down a reportedly unique, critical asset to save $14 million?  Docking a destroyer for a few weeks  would save more money. 

 - Ed Kyle

Offline Patchouli

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #5 on: 08/15/2013 04:20 AM »
It seems like they're being penny wise and dollar stupid here the loss of a single satellite or space vehicle would likely be more then the cost of keeping it up and running until a replacement is operational.
It's only 14 million a year not even a drop in the bucket as for as the USAF budget goes.
Ground some drones or divert some money away from the NSA domestic spying program.
Unlike the two things above this asset is indispensable for national security.
Worst case sell the asset to a trusted private company.

This is so brain dead the people making the decisions really should just step down from their positions.
« Last Edit: 08/15/2013 04:24 AM by Patchouli »

Offline kevin-rf

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #6 on: 08/15/2013 01:09 PM »
You are forgetting the political angle, many feel that the administration told everyone to make the cuts as painful as possible. The goal being to force congress to cave in ...eeer fix the budget problem.

This was never about saving money.
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Offline weedenbc

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #7 on: 08/20/2013 12:59 AM »
I'm working on an in-depth analysis of this decision. It is troubling, but given the budget constraints and the options available it was probably the "least worst" choice. There will be some impact to SSA but not what we thought it might be, and the actual impact is difficult to quantify.

Hope to have the article out early next week.
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Offline arachnitect

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #8 on: 08/20/2013 01:08 AM »
I'm working on an in-depth analysis of this decision. It is troubling, but given the budget constraints and the options available it was probably the "least worst" choice. There will be some impact to SSA but not what we thought it might be, and the actual impact is difficult to quantify.

Hope to have the article out early next week.

Hi Weedenbc, if you do write an article, please post a link to it in this thread, thank you.

I don't really know much about the other assets that will fill the gap. I think I read that lower altitudes were better covered by other systems, but that's about all I know.

Offline weedenbc

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #9 on: 08/28/2013 04:39 PM »
Here's the article I posted a couple days ago with an in-depth analysis of this decision:
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2357/1
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Offline arachnitect

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #10 on: 08/30/2013 01:30 AM »
Here's the article I posted a couple days ago with an in-depth analysis of this decision:
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2357/1

Quite an extensive writeup there, thank you.

Offline kevin-rf

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #11 on: 08/30/2013 01:43 PM »
Excellent, Excellent in depth article. I was finally able to put aside the time to read it and am glad I did. So which congress critters do we write?

You sir have definitely raised the bar on theSpaceReview!
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Offline weedenbc

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #12 on: 08/30/2013 02:11 PM »
Thanks, although this is not the first time I've done something like this.  See my 2009 piece on the Iridium Cosmos collision:
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1314/1

Or my 2010 piece on the SJ-12/SJ-06F rendezvous:
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1689/1


As far as which Congress critter to write to, unfortunately that's not going to do any good in this case. The evidence suggests that this is all going on inside the Pentagon, with the higher ups delaying the new S-Band Space Fence and AFSPC killing the AFSSS. 

So it's unclear what Congress could do about this.  As I mentioned in the article, space surveillance is not a topic that elicits passion from interest groups.
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Offline Targeteer

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #13 on: 10/10/2013 08:12 PM »
http://www.peterson.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123366499

End of an era for AFSSS

by 1st Lt. Stacy Glaus
21st Space Wing Public Affairs Office

10/9/2013 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The 21st Space Wing closed the Air Force Space Surveillance System due to resource constraints caused by sequestration, marking the end of its 52 years of service to the Space Situational Awareness mission, Oct. 1.

The Air Force Space Surveillance System was designed to transmit a "fence" of radar energy vertically into space to detect all objects passing through that fence. It operated from three transmitters and six receiver stations located along the 33rd parallel in the southern portion of the United States.

The three transmitter sites were located at Jordan Lake, Ala.; Lake Kickapoo, Texas; and Gila River, Ariz.

The six receivers were located at Tattnall, Ga.; Hawkinsville, Ga.; Silver Lake, Miss.; Red River, Ark.; Elephant Butte, N.M.; and San Diego, Calif.

"The AFSSS mission was a cutting edge system when it was initially developed," said Col. John Shaw, 21st Space Wing commander. "Even to this day it complemented our SSA missions throughout the world, but due to sequestration, the decision was made to reconfigure some of our other assets and deactivate the AFSSS."

The radar had three distinct processes which were performed by three different organizations. The 20th Space Control Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., oversaw the radar transmitter and receiver sites and also collected the observations. Observations from these sites were sent to the 20th SPCS, Detachment 1 at Dahlgren, Va., where the data was processed. Finally, the 614th Air and Space Operations Center, Detachment 1 at Dahlgren, analyzed the AFSSS data and distributed observations to the Joint Space Operations Center located at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

The two receiver sites at Tattnall and Silver Lake were deactivated in April of this year. The remaining sites, including the 20th SPCS, Det. 1, deactivated Oct. 1.

With the exception of the 20th SPCS, Det. 1, all sites were staffed by contract personnel from Five Rivers Services. Government crews and resources from 20 SPCS, Det. 1, have been realigned under the 614th AOC, Det. 1.

Modified operating modes at Perimeter Acquisition Radar Characterization System at Cavalier AFS, N.D., and the space surveillance radar at Eglin AFB, Fla., as well as other 21st Space Wing SSA sensors, allowed for the discontinuation of AFSSS operations while maintaining solid SSA.

While network performance studies are ongoing, initial indications show better than expected performance of the Space Surveillance Network since discontinuing operations of AFSSS, and most metrics are indicating no noticeable impact. Additionally, Air Force Space Command will see a cost savings from the AFSSS de-activation of more than $14 million per year, beginning in Fiscal Year 2014.

As part of the AFSSS closing process Shaw and Chief Master Sgt. Richard Redman, 21st Space Wing command chief, visited one of the sites before its closure.

"It was an honor to be able to go and visit the contractors working at the Elephant Butte (N.M.) site," said Shaw. "Some of these people have worked on the AFSSS their entire careers and it has served us well for the past 52 years. We were especially grateful we could go there and thank the crew for their dedication in person."

As the sun set on the final day of operations Sept. 30, AFSSS sites lowered the U.S. flag that flew over their locations one final time. The flag was folded and then presented to each site manager.

A formal ceremony, marking the closure of all sites and deactivation of 20th SPCS, Det. 1 was also held in Dahlgren, Va. The ceremony included a special guidon flag-casing ceremony, which is a military tradition used to recognize units that have deactivated or moved. The guidon was sent to the parent unit, the 20th SPCS located at Eglin AFB, Fla., for historical preservation.

"The contributions of the fence for 52 years, coupled with the dedication of the men and women who maintained and analyzed its data is a remarkable accomplishment," said Capt. Roland Rainey, commander, 614th AOC, Det. 1.

Oct. 1 meant more than just a day to take down a flag; it was also a day to celebrate the AFSSS's history.

"While we say 'farewell' to the AFSSS and its contributions to the Space Situational Awareness mission, it is equally important to remember all the operators, analysts and contractors, both military and civilian, who met the space race challenge over the years," said Rainey.

For some of those members who devoted their careers to the AFSSS mission, Oct. 1 was a bittersweet day.

Kenneth St. Clair, 20th SPCS Det. 1 site supervisor and now the 614th AOC Det. 1 supervisory information technology specialist, has worked the AFSSS mission for more than 30 years. He experienced many unit name changes throughout his tenure but the mission always stayed the same. This time, that mission will change as well.

"(The closing ceremony) signified the end of 20th SPCS, Det. 1," said St. Clair. "It's going to be different but we will keep moving on."

But not all sad news came out of these closing ceremonies. One member - or perhaps 'mascot' is a better term - seemed to create a bright spot to the closure of the AFSSS story.

His name - Grumpy.

Grumpy is a black and white stray dog that decided to call the Gila River space surveillance site home nearly four years ago. Too scared to approach the crew working at the site, Grumpy was never able to become 'friends' with the crew. The crew members still cared for and fed him, nonetheless.

As the AFSSS sites approached their closure date of Oct. 1, many people were afraid Grumpy would be left at the site, uncared for and alone. That all changed when one of the crew members was finally able to warm up to Grumpy. The member has since adopted him and Grumpy has a new home.

Best quote heard during an inspection, "I was unaware that I was the only one who was aware."

Offline JohnFornaro

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #14 on: 10/11/2013 12:58 PM »
From Brian's article:

On August 6, 2013, news broke that the commander of Air Force Space Command (AFSPC), General William Shelton, had ordered the shutdown of the Air Force Space Surveillance System (AFSSS) by the beginning of the new fiscal year on October 1. This article aims to shed some light on the technical, budgetary, and political considerations behind the decision to shut down the AFSSS. The loss of the AFSSS is not likely to have a significant impact on the accuracy of objects in the existing satellite catalog or the ability of the US military to track medium to large size objects in orbit.

The real impact will be the loss of the AFSSS’s ability to do uncued detection of breakups and maneuvers across a huge area of Earth orbit and act as a “trip wire” to warn about events in space. Thus, the shutdown of the AFSSS is more likely to negatively impact broad area surveillance aspect of space situational awareness (SSA) than the tracking accuracy aspect of space surveillance. [/quote]

The decision to shutdown the fence was made well before the government shutdown.  There does not seem to be any connection whatsoever with the politics of the shutdown. The choice of October first is completely understandable, since that is the end date of the fiscal year.

Many thanks to Brian for writing the first paragraph so succinctly and inclusively.
« Last Edit: 10/11/2013 12:58 PM by JohnFornaro »
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline JohnFornaro

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #15 on: 10/11/2013 12:59 PM »
One other thing occured to me.  The cost of certain aerospace technologies is quite affordable.
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline weedenbc

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #16 on: 10/11/2013 01:13 PM »
From Brian's article:

On August 6, 2013, news broke that the commander of Air Force Space Command (AFSPC), General William Shelton, had ordered the shutdown of the Air Force Space Surveillance System (AFSSS) by the beginning of the new fiscal year on October 1. This article aims to shed some light on the technical, budgetary, and political considerations behind the decision to shut down the AFSSS. The loss of the AFSSS is not likely to have a significant impact on the accuracy of objects in the existing satellite catalog or the ability of the US military to track medium to large size objects in orbit.

The real impact will be the loss of the AFSSS’s ability to do uncued detection of breakups and maneuvers across a huge area of Earth orbit and act as a “trip wire” to warn about events in space. Thus, the shutdown of the AFSSS is more likely to negatively impact broad area surveillance aspect of space situational awareness (SSA) than the tracking accuracy aspect of space surveillance.

The decision to shutdown the fence was made well before the government shutdown.  There does not seem to be any connection whatsoever with the politics of the shutdown. The choice of October first is completely understandable, since that is the end date of the fiscal year.

Many thanks to Brian for writing the first paragraph so succinctly and inclusively.
[/quote]

Thanks for the kind words John. I tried pretty hard to make it as accurate as I could.

The overall government shutdown is not directly related to the decision to close the AFSSS, but it is related to the bigger issue that drove the closure. The primary factor in the decision to close the AFSSS is the mandatory cuts due to sequestration, and AFSPC's decision to implement those cuts through ending operations of the AFSSS instead of closing down other sensors. 

Furthermore, the decision to fund the new S-Band Space Fence is on hold at the Pentagon level because they don't know what's going to happen with sequestration or the budget. They are hesitant to commit the funds until they know what their long-term funding levels are going to be, which will then allow them to decide if the S-Band Space Fence is really a priority.

So the overall government shutdown does have a bit of a role because sequestration is still an unsettled issue. The FY14 budget that is at the center of the government shutdown does not include the full sequestration cuts, even though it is mandatory by law.  Even if we get some sort of agreement on the budget, AND we get some sort of agreement on the debt ceiling, we STILL need to have some sort of an agreement on sequestration.

For the time being, both the White House and Congress are choosing to treat sequestration like it doesn't exist (even though it's the law) and that is creating an immense amount of damage to the DoD budget and future planning.

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Offline kevin-rf

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #17 on: 10/26/2013 02:41 PM »
New article in defense news. Sequestration has increased costs by $70 million...

http://www.defensenews.com/article/20131025/DEFREG02/310250016/Victim-Sequestration-Space-Fence-Costs-Jump

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Offline Melt Run

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #18 on: 10/26/2013 07:17 PM »
Part of the reason that the old space fence is being shut down is there is much more effective technology available. The following article briefly describes a three mirror, extreamly wide field, very fast, 3.5 meter aperture telescope that has been designed and built by MIT Lincoln Lab of Lexington MA for DARPA. It will be located in Western Australia. The sole purpose is to identify and track the thousands of pieces of space debre.
http://www.svash.com/2012/11/space-surveillance-telescope.html

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« Last Edit: 10/26/2013 07:40 PM by Melt Run »

Offline weedenbc

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #20 on: 10/26/2013 07:39 PM »
SST has already been up and running in New Mexico for some time, and  yes they are looking to put one in Australia. But this is not a replacement for the Space Fence. Radar and optical are complementary technologies that each have different advantages and disadvantages. They are not substitutes for each other.
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Offline Melt Run

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #21 on: 10/26/2013 07:46 PM »
SST has already been up and running in New Mexico for some time, and  yes they are looking to put one in Australia. But this is not a replacement for the Space Fence. Radar and optical are complementary technologies that each have different advantages and disadvantages. They are not substitutes for each other.
Note that the SST telescope located at Atomic Ridge is being moved to Australia. It is the same telescope.
In the same agreement a c band radar is also being moved. I agree that each have there own advantages and therefore they are being relocated as a operational set to perform space servaliance.

Offline weedenbc

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #22 on: 10/26/2013 07:50 PM »
The radar is an older C-band dish-type from Antigua that was once part of the SSN but stopped being used for space surveillance years ago:

http://www.antiguaobserver.com/us-air-station-to-begin-dismantling-radar-next-year/

It's not any way an "operational set". Both are going to be part of the SSN.  SST is pretty sweet but the C-band dish is vastly inferior to any of the phased arrays or even the old Space Fence.
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Offline Melt Run

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #23 on: 10/26/2013 08:01 PM »
The radar is an older C-band dish-type from Antigua that was once part of the SSN but stopped being used for space surveillance years ago:

http://www.antiguaobserver.com/us-air-station-to-begin-dismantling-radar-next-year/

It's not any way an "operational set". Both are going to be part of the SSN.  SST is pretty sweet but the C-band dish is vastly inferior to any of the phased arrays or even the old Space Fence.
I will defer to your knowledge regarding the c band. My misunderstanding WRT working as a set.
Perhaps the Haystack system upgrade cuts the mustard?
http://www.hanscom.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123205407

Offline weedenbc

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #24 on: 10/26/2013 08:07 PM »
Yep, that's definitely some serious hardware :)
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Offline Melt Run

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #25 on: 10/26/2013 08:39 PM »
Yep, that's definitely some serious hardware :)
Plus a "SST is pretty sweet"
That sounds like high praise form someone that sounds like he knows what he is talking about.
Thanks

Offline weedenbc

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #26 on: 10/26/2013 09:17 PM »
This paper talks a bit about how and why SST is so awesome, and also what some of the other options are for optical telescopes:

http://www.amostech.com/TechnicalPapers/2013/Optical_Systems/ACKERMANN.pdf
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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #27 on: 10/26/2013 10:28 PM »
This paper talks a bit about how and why SST is so awesome, and also what some of the other options are for optical telescopes:

http://www.amostech.com/TechnicalPapers/2013/Optical_Systems/ACKERMANN.pdf
Brian
Thanks for the paper. I had not seen it and it makes some very interesting points. My experience is that 110 million is not excessive for a mill spec system and I would expect that many of the academic offerings would grow during implimentation. Nothing goes into orbit for less then that price (I'm sure someone will show me my error). The cost of one B2 bomber is 20x that price! I understand that there is no budget for another and that the moving budget all boils down to what portion of already budgeted pots of money are available. As an Opticer I would love to see another ( or more) espically since all the R&D costs behind us.

Offline weedenbc

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #28 on: 10/26/2013 11:31 PM »
The conclusion of the study was that the AF could buy a new telescope to put in Australia with much of the performance of the SST for the same cost it would take to move the SST from New Mexico to Australia.

The end result would cost the same but you'd have two systems instead of one.
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Offline Melt Run

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #29 on: 10/26/2013 11:48 PM »
The conclusion of the study was that the AF could buy a new telescope to put in Australia with much of the performance of the SST for the same cost it would take to move the SST from New Mexico to Australia.

The end result would cost the same but you'd have two systems instead of one.
Would love to see that happen but as I mentioned (perhaps not clearly) it may have to do with what is referred to as "The color of the money". As an example if there is only budget for maintenance they may be able to move the SST but not build a replacement. Crazy I know!
With all the talk of Hexagon on the site I find it interesting that the photo below is the intended new home of SST

Offline Targeteer

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #30 on: 01/20/2015 12:25 PM »
This is a radar I'd never heard of performing the satellite tracking mission.

https://www.facebook.com/Deborah.Lee.James/photos/a.782062315146100.1073741829.706043656081300/908085189210478/?type=1&theater

Secretary of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James, receives a briefing from Mr. Kenny Leines on the ALTAIR radar during a visit to the Marshall Islands, 20 January, 2015. ALTAIR (ARPA Long-Range Tracking and Instrumentation Radar) is a large, steerable dish-array radar at the U.S. ballistic missile test range on Kwajalein in the Pacific Ocean. Operating at both VHF and UHF frequencies, it is an important collateral sensor in the U.S. Space Surveillance Network, particularly for detecting and tracking newly-launched satellites and for tracking objects in deep-space and geosynchronous orbits.

Best quote heard during an inspection, "I was unaware that I was the only one who was aware."

Offline Targeteer

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #31 on: 01/20/2015 12:28 PM »
Best quote heard during an inspection, "I was unaware that I was the only one who was aware."

Offline Jim

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #32 on: 01/20/2015 12:57 PM »
This is a radar I'd never heard of performing the satellite tracking mission


That is for satellite surveillance vs "tracking".  It does not communicate with the spacecraft.

Offline weedenbc

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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #33 on: 01/20/2015 01:11 PM »
ALTAIR and the other radars at Kwaj have been used for space surveillance and tracking for decades. Here's a more detailed overview of the four main space surveillance radars located on Kwaj:

http://mostlymissiledefense.com/2012/05/11/space-surveillance-sensors-the-altair-radar-may-11-2012/
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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #34 on: 07/28/2015 03:24 AM »
http://www.peterson.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123453931

by Dave Smith
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer

7/21/2015 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- About 1,000 miles from the nearest continental contact, deep in the central Indian Ocean are three telescopes peering up into space, watching and tracking objects while the rest of the world sleeps.

Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia is on a coral atoll in the British Indian Ocean Territories. The remote location is home to Detachment 2, 21st Operations Group, a geographically separated unit of the 21st Space Wing. The detachment is one of three Ground-Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance sites in the world and the only one in the Southern Hemisphere.

"We're part of an Air Force space wing, aboard a Naval station, on a British island," said Capt. Donald Perrotta, Det. 2 commander. "The Navy and British are integral to our continued mission success. Diego Garcia definitely operates with a 'One island, One Team, One Mission' mentality."

Perrotta and Tech. Sgt. Layne Fuell are the only active duty Airmen in the detachment, along with about a dozen government contractors. Fuell was the first one in the NCOIC position for the detachment.

The one-meter telescopes operated by the detachment are passive sensors, Perrotta said, monitoring deep space only at night. They just watch and track space objects reflecting the light of the sun.

Watching at nighttime is something Perrotta compared to taking a telescope out in the backyard to look at the stars, only on a much larger scale. Each of the main telescopes has a 40-inch aperture and covers a two degree field of view. What that means is that they track deep space objects orbiting from 3,000-22,000 miles away, moving at speeds of up to 17,500 mph.

The low level of light pollution in the remote ocean location allows the telescopes a clearer view of space. The time difference between Diego Garcia and the other GEODSS sites in Hawaii and New Mexico, coupled with the field of view, allows maximum coverage of space.

Along with the members of Det. 2, there are other Airmen stationed for duty on the atoll. For example the 50th Network Operations Group, part of the 50th Space Wing from Schriever AFB is located on Diego Garcia, a Pacific Air Force detachment from the 36th Mission Support Group, and a detachment from the 730 Air Mobility Squadron from Yokota AFB are located there as well.

The NSF also houses logistic, service and installation support personnel and operations for U.S. and Allied forces deployed in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf areas. Sixteen separate commands, consisting of 360 military personnel, 1,800 base operation services contractor staff, 300 mariners, 220 civilians and 80 overseas government employees, call Diego Garcia home according to the military news web site Naval-Technology.com. British military and civilian personnel live on the atoll too. Det. 2 is a one year remote assignment.

One might think the station's location makes it a candidate for regular bouts of dangerous weather, but Fuell said that is not the case. Because of the location and the arrangement of the coral reefs they do not receive many typhoons. The reefs serve as a breakwater of sorts.

"We do get torrential rains," Fuell said, "But the last time there was a base lock down was about seven years ago, so it's really nice that way."

The atoll might be a relatively lonely outpost, but it is not without activities and social opportunities. Though space is limited - the atoll is about 30 nautical miles long - a selection of activities is provided by the Morale, Welfare and Recreation team to keep people busy.

USO tours come through providing entertainment from popular celebrities and musical acts. Groups like alternative rock band Vertical Horizon, Miss America, American Idol contestants and NFL cheerleaders have all made the journey to entertain at the base.

Fuell said he has his fingers in just about everything going on at Diego Garcia. Activities like sailing, biking, fishing and trail running are all popular. He said there is a beautiful outdoor, covered theater which shows first run movies - Jurassic World was screened on the same day it opened elsewhere.

There is a Captain's Cup series for those who are athletically inclined. The challenges vary but are typically something related to the group who picks the activities, with an athletic twist. On the last Friday of each month groups compete in the challenge set up by the previous month's winner, which cannot compete that month.

"They keep us pretty busy with things to do," Perrotta said. "There are definitely opportunities to beat boredom, get out of your room, and take advantage of what the island has to offer."

Having an award winning MWR team doesn't hurt, either. The Diego Garcia MWR boasts four-star accreditation from the Commander Navy Installations Command, which is in charge of all Navy installations. When it received its second accreditation in 2014 the MWR group was one of only nine installations so recognized. More than 480 events were hosted throughout the year, helping to promote physical readiness, a healthy lifestyle and generate camaraderie among all who are stationed there.

A good portion of the atoll is a nature preserve and requires permission from the British to enter. But in a pristine state, spending time there is worth it according to Fuell. Many people go there to take photos or to visit the ruins of an old plantation, he said. There also is a site where camping is permitted.

Sunscreen is a crucial item on Diego Garcia. Located seven degrees below the equator, the sun basically sits above the atoll all day and he says, will cook you. Average lows are about 78 degrees and highs around 85. The prevalent trade winds keep the temperatures steady, though it can fluctuate. But even with the hot sun he advocates going outside and getting involved in activities.

"Go out and get involved. If you stay in your room you'll be miserable," Fuell said. If a person gets involved with what's going on around the atoll it could be one of the best assignments of a career.

Flights into the NSF are not really an option so email, Internet chat, Facebook and Skype are often used to communicate with loved ones and friends elsewhere. Phone cards are available as well, so connecting that way is possible too.

BRITISH INDIAN OCEAN TERRITORIES -- Workers replace a dome on a telescope at Detachment 2, 21st Operations Group, a geographically separated unit of the 21st Space Wing located on Diego Garcia Naval Support Facility in the British Indian Ocean Territories. The low level of light pollution in the remote ocean location allows the telescopes a clearer view of space. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Re: Space Fence To Be Shutdown
« Reply #35 on: 04/11/2017 09:27 PM »
https://www.stripes.com/news/pacific/space-fence-on-kwajalein-will-allow-air-force-to-monitor-debris-threats-1.462904#.WO1H8P21tz8

 KWAJALEIN, Marshall Islands — The Earth is orbited by half a million pieces of space debris, much of it leftovers from decades of missile, shuttle and satellite launches.

More than 20,000 pieces are bigger than a softball, some zooming faster than 17,000 mph, according to NASA.

The military has long tracked this atmospheric anarchy, to prevent collisions with working satellites and to monitor what potential adversaries might be launching into space.

The Air Force Space Surveillance System, which shut down in 2013 after 50 years, tracked about 20,000 objects. Space Fence, a tracking system being built by Lockheed Martin on the remote South Pacific island of Kwajalein, is expected to be able to track 200,000.

Dana Whalley, the Air Force’s Space Fence program manager, compared the old system to using a flashlight to search a dark attic, while Space Fence will light up the entire room.

A million tons of steel will anchor the radar array, which will allow the Air Force to monitor even subtle course changes for space junk.
WYATT OLSON/STARS AND STRIPES

Space Fence will be able to detect objects as small as marbles at the roughly 250-mile height of the International Space Station. Such a small speck of debris might sound benign, but NASA has replaced space shuttle windows damaged by flying paint flecks.

Bruce Schafhauser, Lockheed Martin’s program director for space surveillance, called the project “a game changer of space situational awareness” during a recent tour of the radar site.

“Space is becoming an increasingly congested environment,” he said.

Space Fence will thoroughly catalog pertinent debris so that even subtle location changes can be detected. That will allow the U.S. to move satellites out of harm’s way.

“The fact that this is very precise is a benefit in two ways,” Schafhauser said. “First is that you wouldn’t be spending fuel moving things out of the way unnecessarily, and second, you reduce the risk of collision to begin with.”

article continues below

Space has also become increasingly contested, “given the continuing demonstrations of anti-satellite weaponry from other nations,” Schafhauser said. “We want to keep track of what they’re doing as well.”

China and Russia are developing anti-satellite weaponry, former U.S. Strategic Command chief Adm. Cecil Haney said last year during a speech in Washington.

“Russia has publicly stated they are researching and developing counterspace capabilities to degrade, disrupt and deny other users of space,” Haney said, adding that North Korea and Iran’s hacking and counterspace operations merit international attention.

The Air Force’s defunct tracking system was “basically a bell-ringer function,” meaning if something passed through, it would cue other sensors to determine its orbit and characteristics, he said. Space Fence can track and process movements on its own.

Lockheed Martin developed and built a small prototype in New Jersey before construction began on Kwajalein, about 2,100 miles southwest of Hawaii.

The $914 million system is expected to be finished by the end of 2018. Hundreds of technicians, engineers, electricians and laborers are working six 10-hour days a week on Kwajalein to stay on schedule.

Far fewer people will be needed to operate Space Fence once the Air Force takes over. About a dozen people will maintain the Kwajalein site, with 12 more at its operations center in Huntsville, Ala. Relevant data will be fed to the Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., which will make decisions on space intervention.

The Air Force chose Kwajalein — home to the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site — in part because its location near the equator is advantageous in monitoring objects in low-to-medium orbit, Space Fence’s target area.

The site is composed of two pressurized radar chambers, one for transmitting into space and the other for receiving those radio frequencies. Roofs covering each chamber are made of thick, electronically transparent Kevlar.

Passing through air locks into the radar chambers is an ear-popping experience. At the chambers’ ground level is a crisscross of a million pounds of anchoring steel.

“What you’re looking at is a steel structure that’s very sturdy to not only maintain alignment of the radar array face, which is at the very top of this, but also because we have seismic requirements that we’re dealing with here,” Schafhauser said during the tour. “That accounts for the size of it all.”

Wide aluminum columns carry coolant, and 50,000 tons of concrete make up the thick foundation and walls.

Building the radar system depends on a complex logistics stream that originates in Los Angeles, ships to Guam, then to Kwajalein.

Particularly challenging was the shipping and installation of the two sheets of Kevlar roofing. They were manufactured as two single pieces, the largest of which had to cover a 150-by-50-foot area after inflation.

The Kevlar was folded like an accordion, then shipped by sea. To avoid damage, it had to be unfolded and installed when winds were under 10 mph for at least 12 hours — a rarity on Kwajalein.

They ended up erecting a windbreaker around the building similar to the fencing found around tennis courts.

Space Fence is named for the grid-like pattern of beams it projects into space.

“That pattern of beams is attached to the Earth that rotates around, basically sweeping that fence around, and every satellite in low-Earth orbit passes through that fence an average of about twice a day,” Schafhauser said.

olson.wyatt@stripes.com
Twitter: @WyattWOlson
Best quote heard during an inspection, "I was unaware that I was the only one who was aware."

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