The UK, US and Australia have announced a plan to track and identify objects in deep space using high-powered radars.
Under the AUKUS security pact, a network of three radars will be set up in the UK, US and Australia to protect satellites and assist with space traffic.
Once the radars are fully operational by 2030, according to the Ministry of Defence, the system will be able to characterise objects up to 22,000 miles away from Earth.
That’s about 10% of the distance to the Moon, but far further than the 250 miles between Earth and the International Space Station.
The “unique geographic positioning” of the three nations means the Deep Space Advanced Radar Capability (DARC) programme would provide global coverage, the MoD says, including “detecting potential threats to defence or civilian space systems”.
The UK’s radar, which is planned for construction at Cawdor Barracks in Pembrokeshire, is expected to be up and running by the end of the decade, with Australia’s due in 2026.
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Cawdor Barracks is home to a British Army Signals Regiment, which is due to relocate from 2028, but final plans depend on permission from the local authority and an environmental assessment.
The MoD claims keeping the base for DARC could benefit the local economy, offering work during the construction phase and providing up to 100 longer-term jobs.
Grant Shapps, the UK’s defence secretary, said the UK and its allies must ensure “advanced capabilities” as the world “becomes more contested and the danger of space warfare increases”.
“Today’s announcement of a global radar network, based across the UK, US and Australia, will do just that,” he added. “Empowering the UK to detect, track and identify objects in deep space.”
According to the MoD, these new radar systems have “higher sensitivity, better accuracy, increased capacity, and more agile tracking” than current radars monitoring objects in deep space orbit.
This will help to provide 24/7, all-weather use, and will benefit land, air and naval forces.