Due to resource constraints caused by budget sequestration, Air Force Space Command is preparing to discontinue operations of the Air Force Space Surveillance System by Oct. 1, a move that would save $14 million per year, announced the command on Monday. A final decision on this action is expected in the next few weeks, according to the command’s Aug. 12 release. By discontinuing operations, the command would not maintain the system in operational status, but would not remove equipment until determining final disposition, states the release. AFSSS has been operational since 1961 as part of Air Force’s broader space surveillance network. The system comprises a series of three radar transmitters and six receivers along the 33rd parallel stretching across the southern United States. To account for the loss of AFSSS coverage, the command said it has “devised modified operating modes” for surveillance radars at Cavalier AFS, N.D., and Eglin AFB, Fla. The Air Force wants to replace AFSSS—often referred to as the “space fence”—with the new Space Fence system, but has been waiting on the Pentagon’s acquisition leadership to decide whether there’s the money, when weighing other acquisition priorities, to procure it.
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.