Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT) has won a government contract to build what scientists are calling a space fence. According to The Washington Post, the $915 million contract involves building a radar system that in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean. Lockheed was competing with Raytheon Company (NYSE:RTN) for that contract.

Lockheed martin space fence

Space fence will be important for national security

Pentagon officials say there’s so much stuff floating around in space that any of it can collide with U.S. satellites at any time. They use those satellites to gather intelligence, communicate securely within the military, and for GPS. Some satellites are also used for television.

Officials said the space fence Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT) will be building is actually less of a fence and more of a high-frequency radar system. Astronomers will then be able to track space debris, tag it, and monitor it as it passes through the radar. Analysts will be able to predict where the debris will go next and when it is in danger of crashing into something important.

Lockheed Martin to improve space radar

A Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT) spokesperson said currently the radar system the U.S. has in place is only able to see debris that is the size of a baseball or larger. However, he said this new space fence will be able to detect things that are even smaller than that. While it sounds like something so small might not be able to do much damage if it collides with something, that debris is orbiting the earth at up to 17,000 miles per hour.

Officials say that at that speed, a piece of debris that’s only half an inch across would do as much damage as a bowling ball orbiting at 300 miles per hour. They say even paint flecks are a danger to the sensitive satellites that are in orbit. And there are plenty of large objects floating around out there as well. Used rocket boosters that were left in space have exploded because they were carrying fuel. There are satellites that are no longer working and have decomposed. And the more things crash, the more debris is created.

Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT) said it expects the new space fence to be up and running by 2018. The company could also be contracted to build another phase of the project in Australia at some point in the future.