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Articles / Astronomy

The amount of junk in our orbit is an increasing and growing concern. Several ideas have been brought forward about how to deal with this issue, ranging from nets to lasers. Still, before a cleanup can be attempted, it's important to be able to know where exactly the debris is and whether or not it's heading somewhere we don't want it too, like a multi-million dollar sattelite or the International Space Station. This is exactly what the US Air Force is determined to do with the Space Fence.

Lockheed Martin, a defense contractor that the US Air Force is very familiar with, have just turned on their prototype debris radar, which can spot objects as small as 8 inches in diameter and minitor up to 200 000 pieces of debris. This is a huge improvement over the current version, which is only able to track 20 000 pieces and can't see objects smaller than 11 inches in diameter, which means it's missing out on a lot of junk.

Lockheed Martin's radar is just a demonstrator model, as they are currently competing with Raytheon, the world's largest producer of guided missiles, for the $3.5 billion Air Force contract. The job should be awarded later this year, with the Fence expected to be fully operational by 2017.

By Denis Ivanov

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