National Air and Space Museum Archives

Space Surveillance Fence Program Collection

Summary
Collection ID:
NASM.2014.0048
Dates:
1959-2002
Languages:
English
.
Physical Description:
15.11 Cubic feet
13 boxes
Repository:
The Navy Space Surveillance System (NavSpaSur) was developed between 1958 and 1964 by the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) for the detection and tracking of foreign satellites. Operated by the United States Navy from 1961-2004 and thereafter by the US Air Force until its decommissioning in 2013, the system (known as the Space Fence) had three transmitting sites and six receiving stations across the southern United States. Its radar signals detected active satellites and larger pieces of space debris passing through them at altitudes up to 15,000 miles and helped determine their orbital elements. An improved space surveillance radar on Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific entered service in 2020.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The Space Surveillance Fence Program Collection consists of 15 cubic feet of photographs of NAVSPASUR personnel, facilities, and stations; many of the photographs are unidentified. Also included in the collection are operational and systems manuals, paper strip charts of radar data, reports and memoranda.

Arrangement
Arrangement
This collection has not yet been processed. Material is in the order it was received. Duplicate materials may appear in several different locations within the collection.

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
The Navy Space Surveillance System (NavSpaSur) was developed between 1958 and 1964 by the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) for the detection and tracking of foreign satellites. Known as the Space Fence, the system began operations in 1959. Operated by the United States Navy from 1961-2004 and thereafter by the US Air Force until its decommissioning in 2013, the system had three transmitting sites and six receiving stations across the southern United States. Its radar signals detected active satellites and larger pieces of space debris passing through them at altitudes up to 15,000 miles and helped determine their orbital elements. Transmitter sites were located at Lake Kickapoo, Texas (Station SK); Gila River, Arizona (Station SG); and Jordan Lake, Alabama (Station SJ). Receiver stations were located at San Diego, California (Station SS); Elephant Butte, New Mexico (Station SE); Red River, Arkansas (Station SR); Silver Lake, Mississippi (Station SM); Hawkinsville, Georgia (Station SH); and at Fort Stewart (Tattnall County), Georgia (Station ST). Data collected at the receiver stations was transmitted to the NAVSPASUR Headquarters and Computation Center at the Naval Surface Weapons Center, Dahlgren, Virginia. Command of the system was transferred to the US Air Force's 20th Space Control Squadron in October 2004. The Air Force Space Surveillance System (AFSSS) was shut down on September 1, 2013. An improved space surveillance radar on Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific entered service in 2020.

Administration
Author
Allan Janus, 2015; revised by Melissa A. N. Keiser, 2022
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Christopher Matson, Gift, 2014, 2014.0048
Processing Information
Arranged and described by Allan Janus, 2015; revised and encoded by Melissa A. N. Keiser, 2022.

Digital Content
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Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Use
Material is subject to Smithsonian Terms of Use. Should you wish to use NASM material in any medium, please submit an Application for Permission to Reproduce NASM Material, available at Permissions Requests.
Conditions Governing Access
No restrictions on access
Preferred Citation
Space Surveillance Fence Program Collection, Acc. NASM.2014.0048, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

More Information

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Astronautics, Military Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Artificial satellites -- Tracking Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Electronic surveillance Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Cold War Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States. Navy Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States. Air Force Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Naval Research Laboratory (U.S.) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
National Air and Space Museum Archives
14390 Air & Space Museum Parkway
Chantilly, VA 20151
NASMRefDesk@si.edu