Good fences make good neighbors, which is why the United States is building a space fence.

But the first thing to understand about the space fence is that it’s not actually a fence — it’s radar. And when it’s operational, pulsing up from an atoll in the Pacific, it will be able to track objects in space that are softball-sized, the Air Force says.

The purpose? To keep track of space debris, but also for deterrence, in order to keep U.S. assets in space safe from other powers that might want to attack them.

‘Bubble of Uncertainty’

There are 23,000 human-made objects orbiting the Earth, and about 1,300 of those are active satellites, according to Capt. Nicholas Mercurio, the director of public affairs for the Joint Functional Component Command for Space at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Existing systems track those objects, and are able to detect pieces of debris that are about four inches long in low-Earth orbit, he said.

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