Release Number: 030813
8/13/2013 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Due
to resource constraints caused by sequestration, Air Force Space
Command has directed the 21st Space Wing to prepare to discontinue
operations at the Air Force Space Surveillance System by Oct. 1. Final
decisions on all Fiscal Year 2014 budget issues will be made over the
next few weeks. By discontinuing operations, the AFSSS would not be
maintained in operational status; however, equipment will not be removed
until a final disposition determination is made.
The AFSSS sites are operated under contract and the 21st SW has notified
the vendor, Five Rivers Services in Colorado Springs, Colo., that it
most likely will not exercise the next contract option beginning Oct. 1.
By de-activating the AFSSS by Oct. 1, AFSPC would see a cost savings of
approximately $14 million per year, beginning in Fiscal Year 2014.
AFSPC has devised modified operating modes for the Perimeter Acquisition
Radar Characterization System at Cavalier AFS, N.D., and for the space
surveillance Radar at Eglin AFB, Fla., which allows the discontinuation
of AFSSS operations while still maintaining solid space situational
The AFSSS is a series of three transmitters and six receivers along the
33rd parallel stretching across the southern United States. The three
transmitter sites are located at Jordan Lake, Ala.; Lake Kickapoo,
Texas; and Gila River, Ariz. The six receivers are located at Tattnall,
Ga.; Hawkinsville, Ga.; Silver Lake, Miss.; Red River, Ark.; Elephant
Butte, N.M.; and San Diego, Calif. The two receiver sites at Tattnall
and Silver Lake were deactivated in April of this year.
The AFSSS, which has been operational since 1961, is just one part of
AFSPC's global Space Surveillance Network. The system is designed to
transmit a "fence" of radar energy vertically into space to detect all
objects intersecting that fence. The operational advantage of the AFSSS
is its ability to detect objects in an un-cued fashion, rather than
tracking objects based on previous information. The disadvantage is the
inherent inaccuracy of the data, based on its dated design. The new
operating modes at Cavalier and Eglin will provide more accuracy than
the AFSSS and still collect un-cued observations.
The AFSSS is typically referred to as the "Space Fence," which has
caused confusion with the new Space Fence being developed for the
future. "The AFSSS is much less capable than the Space Fence radar
planned for Kwajalein Island in the Republic of the Marshall Islands,"
said General William L. Shelton, Commander, Air Force Space Command. "In
fact, it's apples and oranges in trying to compare the two systems."
Unlike the AFSSS, the new Space Fence will provide very precise
positional data on orbiting objects and will be the most accurate radar
in the Space Surveillance Network. It will provide enhanced space
surveillance capabilities to detect and track orbiting objects such as
commercial and military satellites, depleted space boosters and space
debris. The new Space Fence will have much greater sensitivity, allowing
it to detect, track and measure an object the size of a softball
orbiting more than 1,200 miles in space. Because it is also an un-cued
tracking system, it will provide evidence of satellite break-ups,
collisions, or unexpected maneuvers of satellites.
"When combined with the new Joint Space Operations Center's high
performance computing environment, the new Fence will truly represent a
quantum leap forward in space situational awareness for the Nation,"
General Shelton said.