Brian Weeden, Wednesday, 10-23-13 October 23, 2013Posted by The Space Show in Uncategorized.
Tags: " Minitrack, "Gambling with a Space Fence: An analysis of the decision to shut down the Air Force Space Surveillance Fence, Brian Weeden, continuous wave radar, DOD budgets, GPS, Gravity the movie, Naval Research Lab, pulsed radar, S Band Space Fence, Secure World Foundation, sequestration, space debris, space fence, Space Security System, Space Track, stealth satellites, The Space Review, timemation, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy
Brian Weeden, Wednesday, 10-23-13
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We welcomed Brian Weeden back to the program to discuss the issue of the shutting down of the USAF Space Fence. Our discussion was based on Brian’s August 26, 2013 Space Review article, “Gambling with a Space Fence: An analysis of the decision to shut down the Air Force Space Surveillance Fence” at www.thespacereview.com/article/2357/1. During the first segment of our 1 hour 29 minute discussion, Brian provided us with a brief history of the Space Fence, what it has been used for, its technical characteristics, and it recent cancellation partially due to sequestration regarding its approximate $15 million annual budget expense. Brian also explained its capabilities in detecting spy satellites, space debris and other objects and the size of objects which it can detect. He discussed both continuous wave radar and pulsed radar, pointing out that the fence which dated from the late 1950’s, was uncued. Richard Easton called in as his father Roger was one of the developers for the space fence in January 1958. Richard contributed greatly to our discussion. Brian then talked about the probable replacement for the fence, an S Band fence which would result in higher frequencies enabling the detection of smaller objects, probably with a very high rate pulsed radar. Right now the S Band fence is estimated to cost about $1.8 billion but as you will hear, it may never be built. As to how our national security has been impacted without the fence operating, Brian said it was difficult to assess so listen carefully to his analysis. Brian also talked about challenging DOD budget issues, the difference in budget years with DOD as compared to the government as a whole, and again, sequestration.
In our second segment, Brian addressed several of the political issues surrounding the space fence issue. When asked how long it would take for the S Band system to become operational were it funded, he said around 2018. Two companies are competing to do it if and when the project is authorized and funded. We also talked about the U.S. sharing satellite tracking information with all satellite operators including private companies, thus using an international partnership to finance the space fence since it benefits everyone. As you will hear, there appears to be control and sensitivity issues which prevent the air force from going that route. Later I asked Brian about stealth satellites and then he took a listener question about the way space debris was portrayed in the movie Gravity. We spent some time discussing the impact of a movie like Gravity on the public regarding the space debris issue. As the program was ending, Brian said he was not that optimistic about a replacement fence and brought to our attention the need to upgrade computer systems that process the data. As you will hear, this is a substantial problem that is not being addressed.
Please post comments/questions on The Space Show blog. You can reach Brian through me or SWF.