WASHINGTON — The U.S. Space Force awarded Northrop Grumman a $341 million contract to develop a radar site to track active satellites and debris in high orbits.

The Space Systems Command’s Space Enterprise Consortium (SpEC) awarded the contract Feb. 22 for the project known as Deep Space Advanced Radar Capability (DARC).

The radar system to be developed by Northrop Grumman will be located in the Indo-Pacific region. It would be one of three planned ground-based radar sites to be installed in dispersed locations around the world.  The company has to complete a prototype by September 2025.

The DARC program was started by the U.S. Air Force in 2017. The Air Force spent $1.5 billion on the Space Fence space surveillance radar to track objects in low Earth orbit. DARC will  track objects in geosynchronous orbit. The three DARC sites are projected to cost $1 billion. 

“DARC Site 1 will provide 24/7 all-weather capabilities that increases the ability to detect, track, identify and characterize objects in deep space,” said Space Systems Command programs leader Lt. Col. Kelly Greiner.

DARC will be more advanced than current radar and optical sensors, said Greiner. It will “fill critical gaps and significantly enhance current space domain awareness capabilities.”

“The DARC program will field a resilient ground-based radar providing our nation with significantly enhanced space domain awareness for geostationary orbit,” said Pablo Pezzimenti, Northrop Grumman’s vice president of integrated national systems. “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.”

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...