The U.S. Space Force’s (USSF) Space Systems Command has awarded Northrop Grumman [NOC] a $341 million contract to develop, test, and deliver a Deep-Space Advanced Radar Capability (DARC) for space domain awareness (SDA) in the next three years.
Last spring, USSF said that its Space Warfighting Analysis Center (SWAC) would examine shortfalls over the next year in space domain awareness and how to remedy them (Defense Daily, Apr. 2, 2021).
To meet USSF’s requirement for faster revisit rates, higher capacity requirements, increased sensitivity, and increased resilience, the service has said that it “is acquiring new sensors, and increasing the capability of existing sensors, while laying the foundation to exploit data for foundational SDA activities.”
Future SDA sensors are to include the space-based SILENTBARKER satellites by the National Reconnaissance Office and USSF to improve the U.S. Space Surveillance Network (SSN), which includes four Northrop Grumman Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) satellites, launched between 2014 and 2016, and two GSSAP birds launched on Jan. 21.
The primary ground-based space tracking system is to be the $1.6 billion Space Fence radar system by Lockheed Martin [LMT]. Located on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, the solid-state S-band radar system achieved initial operational capability on March 27, 2020.
Future SDA ground-based sensors include DARC, which is to improve tracking of deep space objects. Beside Northrop Grumman, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory has also worked on DARC.
“The DARC program will field a resilient ground-based radar providing our nation with significantly enhanced space domain awareness for geostationary orbit,” Pablo Pezzimenti, Northrop Grumman’s vice president of integrated national systems, said in a Feb. 23 statement. “While current ground-based systems operate at night and can be impacted by weather conditions, DARC will provide an all-weather, 24/7 capability to monitor the highly dynamic and rapidly evolving geosynchronous orbital environment critical to national and global security.”
Northrop Grumman said that “the initial DARC contract includes the design, development and delivery of a Site 1 system located in the Indo-Pacific region, expected to be completed in 2025.
“There will be a follow-on of two additional sites strategically placed around the world,” the company said.
Lt. Gen. Nina Armagno, USSF’s director of staff, said last March that by 2025 China and Russia will be able to threaten U.S. systems in all orbital regimes with anti-satellite weapons (Defense Daily, March 11, 2021).