Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems and Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors were each awarded $107 million U.S. Air Force contracts to spend the next 18 months continuing preliminary design work for a network of space surveillance radars, the Pentagon announced Jan. 26.

The United States currently operates a series of Very High Frequency radar sites that stretch across southern portion of the nation from east to west, collectively known as the Space Fence. The Air Force since 2006 has been studying options for replacing the Space Fence with a system capable of tracking a greater number of smaller objects in low and medium Earth orbit. It is possible that all of the radar sites for the new Space Fence will be located outside of the continental United States, service officials have said.

Tewksbury, Mass.-based Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems and Moorestown, N.J.-based Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors last year completed work on $30 million study contracts. The contract to build the Space Fence will be awarded through a full competition open to companies other than Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, both of which are recipients of preliminary design awards. Under the new contracts from the Air Force’s Electronic Systems Center, both companies will continue the initial work through preliminary design review, according to documents posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website. Then in 2012, the Air Force will select one of the companies to build the system, which is expected to cost some $3.5 billion to complete.