Air Force General William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, has indicated that the stop gap measures in place since the Air Force Surveillance System known as Space Fence was deactivated on September 1 are working well, according to a report in Space News.
“Since we closed the Fence on the 1st of September, all of our predictions — and these are very early returns, I will admit that — but all of our predictions seem to be right on track,” Shelton said.
The changes implemented by Space Command included switching to modified operating modes for some of its other space tracking assets, specifically the Perimeter Acquisition Radar Characterization System at Cavalier Air Force Station in North Dakota and the space surveillance radar at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
Because of these changes, Shelton said, the Air Force has retained certain tracking capabilities that were thought to be unique to the AFSSS.
The Space Fence provided a major component of the observations that provide space situational awareness. Space Fence was the only monitoring system able to pick up uncued debris which may have resulted from unanticipated on-orbit collisions.
Suspending Space Fence now leaves a five year gap until a new Space Fence is tentatively scheduled to be built. At this time, it is not yet known whether full funding will be provided for the new initiative – those details will come out in the revised request for proposal due in November. Congress had been looking to reduce funding by about 10%.
Read more of Shelton’s comments here.
Image caption: A stretch of detectors in the now-deactivated Air Force Space Surveillance System (AFSSS) (Credits: USAF/Five Rivers Services).