Space debris the size of a marble: here’s what this new radar can detect in the Marshall Islands

Space debris the size of a marble: here's what this new radar can detect in the Marshall Islands

Located on the Kwajalein Atoll of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean, the newly created US Space Force has activated a new radar system for warning against space debris.

Its name is Space Fence .

Space fence

Before Space Fence, the Space Surveillance Network (SSN) tracked more than 26,000 objects. With the initial operational capacity and operational acceptance of Space Fence, the size of the catalog is expected to increase significantly over time .

This system is now the most sensitive search radar in the SSN, capable of detecting orbiting objects as small as a marble in low Earth orbit (LEO). As General Jay Raymond , Chief of Space Operations for the United States Space Command explains:

Space Fence is revolutionizing the way we view space by providing accurate and timely orbital data on objects that threaten manned and unmanned commercial and military space assets.

The report further notes that while Space Fence meets precision requirements for objects in LEO, it has not demonstrated similar precision for some objects in higher orbits, including MEO and GEO.

  • LEO satellites (Low Earth Orbit, which means low orbits). They orbit the Earth at a distance of 160-2000 km and their speed allows them to go around the world in 90 minutes.
  • MEO satellites (Medium Earth Orbit, medium orbits). They are satellites with moderately close orbits, of about 10,000 km. Its use is intended for telephony and television communications, and for measurements in space experiments.
  • GEO satellites . They have a speed of translation equal to the speed of rotation of the Earth, which means that they are suspended over the same point on the globe. That is why they are called geostationary satellites.