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USA builds massive new space surveillance system

July 15, 2009

My headline is a slightly more accurate version of the way that news of the new ‘Space Fence’ system has been headlined, for example here in Computerworld. The Space Fence system, whose first stage is a $30 Million US project for Northrop-Grumman, will replace a 1961 VHF radio infrastructure known as the Air Force Space Surveillance System built in 1961.

Although the spin is that the system is all about tracking space debris, this is actually part of the DoD’s satellite tracking operations – which certainly does cover debris, insofar as they are a threat to US satellites, but is also crucially to make sure that an accurate picture of the increasing number of smaller ‘micro-satellites’ from an every-expanding number of countries can be obtained. In that sense, this program is indeed a ‘fence’, a further attempt to enforce the notion that space is effectively US territory.

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