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Lockheed Martin Wins $915M Pentagon 'Space Fence' Contract: Fence Will Protect Satellites From Space Debris

By Kevin Li staff@sciencetimes.com | Jul 16, 2014 01:28 AM EDT

In a new and unpredicted danger, scientists are saying that speeding space junk poses real-life threats to much of our equipment orbiting the Earth. This concern has led to the development of a new technology being called a "Space Fence" by Lockheed Martin, which would track hundreds of thousands of pieces of debris floating around the planet's orbit.

Lockheed Martin won the highly coveted contract on Monday for the company to build the fence. The Pentagon will be utilizing this technology in tracking the large number of pieces of debris posing a threat to both manned and unmanned equipment in outer space. According to NASA, a piece of space debris can travel around in orbit as fast as 17,000 miles per hour. At this speed, even a fleck of paint could create a lot of damage, according to officials.

Lockheed Martin, a company based in Bethesda, Maryland, beat Raytheon for the Air Force contract, totaling an amount of $915 million for building the space fence. It is not actually a fence, per se, but a high-frequency radar system that will be able to track debris smaller than a baseball whereas previously only objects around the size of a basketball could be detected.

Vice President of the company Steve Bruce further emphasized the extreme importance of their mission. If space junk collides with satellites in outer space, communications could be disrupted, including military intelligence, GPS, and television, among others. This threatens not only businesses but even the security of nations as militaries heavily rely on outer space programs, especially true for the Pentagon. In 2012, there were more than 10,000 warnings of close calls to both international and U.S. satellites and avoidance maneuvers had to be employed.

To further illustrate the possibility of space debris-caused disaster, The Washington Post mentioned the movie "Gravity" where Sandra Bullock faced a series of misfortunes, all of which were caused by a piece of debris crashing into the communications satellite.

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