Space Fence GaN Amplifiers pass stress test
In 2018, the task of accurately tracking the estimated 500,000 objects floating in space (satellites, spent rocket boosters, debris from in-space collisions) will be handled by Lockheed Martin's Space Fence.
A replacement of the existing Air Force Space Surveillance System, the new system will use GaN-based S-band ground-based radars to provide the US Air Force with uncued detection, tracking and accurate measurement of space objects, primarily in low-earth orbit.
The Lockheed Martin team has recently reached a major milestone by confirming the long-term reliability of its GaN high power amplifiers (HPA). It is partnering with Wolfspeed, a provider of semiconductor products, to provide the GaN HPAs for Space Fence. According to the team, the technology will allow for an increase in the amount of space junk tracked by 10-fold over the current system. It will also be capable of detecting much smaller objects.
GaN HPAs are integral in meeting the efficiency and availability requirements for Space Fence. After more than 5,000 hours - nearly seven months - of accelerated stress 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.
"These test results represent the culmination of more than a decade of shared investment in GaN technology," said Steve Bruce, vice president, Advanced Systems at Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training. "GaN HPAs provide a significant advantages for active phased array radar systems like Space Fence, including higher power density, greater efficiency and significantly improved reliability over previous technologies."
"Wolfspeed is very pleased to be teamed with Lockheed Martin providing GaN Monolithic Microwave Integrated Circuit (MMIC) HPA technology in support of the Space Fence program," said Jim Milligan, director, Wolfspeed. "Our high performance commercial GaN products have been fielded for many years in a variety of military and commercial applications. The successful completion of this significant reliability milestone further validates that GaN has matured enough to support the 24-hour-per-day coverage needed by the Space Fence system."
Lockheed Martin is working on Space Fence in partnership with Space Military Command and the US Air Force Life Cycle Management Center/Space Command Control and Surveillance Division.