After starring in the Hollywood blockbuster Gravity, space junk is getting some attention from the Pentagon. The Department of Defense has designed a “space fence,” a radar system designed to track more than 200,000 bits of orbiting debris with the goal of reducing the chance of satellite-killing collisions.
The Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a $914 million contract earlier this month to design and build the system, which will be able to track objects as small as a baseball and increase the resolution of current tracking by tenfold.
The fence is scheduled to begin operating in 2018, with construction of the first radar installation scheduled for early next year in the Marshall Islands. Construction of a second radar station is planned for western Australia if the Pentagon decides to expand the contract to increase the fence’s coverage.