The U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin marked a milestone as manufacturing is complete on more than 15,000 Line Replaceable Units that contain 36,000 powerful GaN-based High Power Amplifiers (HPAs) for Space Fence, an S-Band ground-based radar system that will provide the Air Force with uncued surveillance, detection, tracking and accurate measurement of space objects, primarily in low-Earth orbit.
The Air Force and Lockheed Martin marked this major step in the project during a ceremony at the corporation’s Clearwater, Florida, location on Oct. 13. Now, 115 crates of these LRUs are packed and in storage ready to be shipped more than 7,000 miles from Clearwater to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
GaN high power amplifiers are integral in meeting the efficiency and reliability requirements for Space Fence. In fall 2015, after more than 5,000 hours — nearly seven months — of accelerated life testing, Lockheed Martin demonstrated greater than 99 percent confidence that the Space Fence HPAs will meet the long-term reliability goals for the Space Fence program.
Lockheed Martin is partnering with Wolfspeed, a leading provider of semiconductor products, to provide the GaN HPAs for Space Fence. Five-hundred twenty Lockheed Martin employees worked on these Space Fence components in Clearwater, Florida, Marion, Massachusetts, Moorestown, New Jersey, and Owego, New York.
“This manufacturing landmark represents more than a decade of shared investment in GaN technology,” said Bruce Schafhauser, director, Space Fence, Lockheed Martin. “Our GaN partners have years of experience fielding this material for commercial and military uses. GaN provides significant advantages for active phased array radar systems like Space Fence and the Long Range Discrimination Radar, which we are working with the Missile Defense Agency to build in Alaska.”
The open foundry model provides the ultimate in flexibility allowing Lockheed Martin to utilize technology from across the marketplace. Leveraging commercial foundries ultimately saves money for customers through competition and having commercial technologies absorb much of the foundry and development costs.
Editor's note: In our August 2016 issue, Microwave Journal published an article describing the Space Fence system, written by Lockheed Martin. You can read it here.