WASHINGTON — Amid cost-cutting efforts, the Air Force plans to shut down an aging radar system that tracks thousands of objects in space. The fate of a planned $2 billion replacement system is still up in the air.
The Air Force Space Command said that “due to resource constraints caused by sequestration,” it has directed the 21st Space Wing to discontinue operations at the Air Force Space Surveillance System by Oct. 1. Deactivating the system, which tracks satellites and orbital debris, will save $14 million annually.
The Air Force plans to replace the space surveillance system with a new “space fence” that will include new sophisticated radar on Kwajalein Island in the Pacific. “The AFSSS is much less capable than the space fence radar planned for Kwajalein Island in the Republic of the Marshall Islands,” said Gen. William L. Shelton, commander of the Air Force Space Command. “In fact, it’s apples and oranges in trying to compare the two systems.”
The space fence will provide enhanced surveillance capabilities to detect and track orbiting objects such as commercial and military satellites, depleted space boosters and space debris, according to the Space Command. The fence will have much greater sensitivity than AFSSS, allowing it to detect, track and measure an object the size of a softball orbiting more than 1,200 miles in space.
Lockheed Martin Corp. and Raytheon Co. submitted competing bids for the space fence last November, Shelton said in a July 16 speech. Brendan Curry, vice president of Washington operations for the nonprofit Space Foundation, said that despite the high price tag, the space fence will win Pentagon approval because of the need to track objects in space that could interfere with satellite operations.
The Navy developed the space surveillance system, which has been in operation since 1961, and transferred control to the Air Force in 2004. AFSSS is a series of three transmitters and six receivers along the 33rd parallel, stretching across the southern United States.
Space Command said it has devised modified operating modes for the Perimeter Acquisition Radar Characterization System at Cavalier Air Force Station, N.D., and for the space surveillance radar at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., allowing the discontinuation of AFSSS operations while still maintaining solid space situational awareness.
What We're Following See More »
After spending a few minutes re-litigating the Democratic primary, Donald Trump turned his focus to Obamacare. “I inherited a mess, believe me. We also inherited a failed healthcare law that threatens our medical system with absolute and total catastrophe” he said. “I’ve been watching and nobody says it, but Obamacare doesn’t work.” He finished, "so we're going to repeal and replace Obamacare."
Donald Trump lobbed his first attack at the “dishonest media” about a minute into his speech, saying that the media would not appropriately cover the standing ovation that he received. “We are fighting the fake news,” he said, before doubling down on his previous claim that the press is “the enemy of the people." However, he made a distinction, saying that he doesn't think all media is the enemy, just the "fake news."
"The FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump's associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign, multiple US officials briefed on the matter tell CNN. But a White House official said late Thursday that the request was only made after the FBI indicated to the White House it did not believe the reporting to be accurate."