Budget Cuts Force the Closure of USAF’s Space Surveillance System

Mike O'Brien

The Air Force Space Command is responding to fiscal constraints caused by sequestration by shutting down the Air Force Space Surveillance System.

The 21st Space Wing has been told to prepare to discontinue operations by October 1 of this year.

Final decisions on the fiscal 2014 budget will be made over the next few weeks.

The AFSSS, otherwise known as the "Space Fence," is a series of three transmitters and six receivers stretching across the southern United States.

Shutting down the operation is expected to save about $14 million, beginning in fiscal 2014.

The AFSSS, which has been operational since 1961, is designed to transmit a "fence" of radar energy vertically into space to detect all objects intersecting that fence.

The three transmitter sites are located at Jordan Lake, Alabama; Lake Kickapoo, Texas and Gila River in Arizona.

The six receivers are located at Tattnall, Georgia; Hawkinsville, Georgia.; Silver Lake, Mississippi; Red River, Arkansas; Elephant Butte, New Mexico and San Diego in California.

AFSPC officials have devised modified operating modes at Cavalier Air Force Station in North Dakota and Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

Officials say new operating modes at Cavalier and Eglin will provide more data accuracy than the outdated AFSSS.

A new space fence is also being built on the Marshall Islands, which 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.