United States Space Force
The United States Space Force (USSF) is the space operations service branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, and is one of the eight U.S. uniformed services. It is the sixth branch of the U.S. military, and the first new armed service since the establishment of the independent U.S. Air Force in 1947.
|United States Space Force|
|Founded||20 December 2019 (as an independent service)|
1 September 1982 (37 years, 4 months as Air Force Space Command)
|Part of||Department of the Air Force|
Arlington County, Virginia, U.S.
|Commander-in-Chief||President Donald Trump|
|Secretary of Defense||Mark T. Esper|
|Secretary of the Air Force||Barbara Barrett|
|Chief of Space Operations||Gen John W. Raymond|
It is organized as a military service branch within the Department of the Air Force, one of the three military departments within the Department of Defense. The Space Force, through the Department of the Air Force, is headed by the Secretary of the Air Force, who reports to the Secretary of Defense, and is appointed by the President with Senate confirmation. The most senior Space Force officer is the Chief of Space Operations, unless a Space Force officer also serves as either the chairman or vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Chief of Space Operations exercises supervision over the Space Force's units and serves as one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Certain Space Force components will be assigned, as directed by the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the Air Force, to unified combatant commands. Combatant commanders will be delegated operational authority of the forces assigned to them, while the Secretary of the Air Force and the Chief of Space Operations will retain administrative authority over their members.
Functions and duties
As described in the United States Space Force Act, it will be organized, trained, and equipped to:
- Provide freedom of operation for the United States in, from, and to space
- Provide prompt and sustained space operations
Its duties include to:
- Protect the interests of the United States in space
- Deter aggression in, from, and to space
- Conduct space operations
Role and mission
The U.S. Space Force's mission is to "organize, train, and equip space forces in order to protect U.S. and allied interests in space and to provide space capabilities to the joint force. Its responsibilities include developing military space professionals, acquiring military space systems, maturing the military doctrine for space power, and organizing space forces to present to the Combatant Commands."
The Space Force is organized as one of two co-equal military service branches within the Department of the Air Force, with the other service being the United States Air Force. Both services are overseen by the Secretary of the Air Force, who has overall responsibility for organizing, training, and equipping the Space Force and Air Force.
The military head of the Space Force is the Chief of Space Operations (CSO), who is an officer in the grade of general. The Chief of Space Operations will become a member of the Joint Staff one year after the passage of the Space Force Act. If authorized by the Secretary of Defense, the Chief of Space Operations may be dual-hatted as the Commander of United States Space Command.
The Space Force will assume responsibility for all major space acquisitions programs, as well as manage a distinct and separate budget, ensuring independence from the Air Force. The Space Force is intended to include all uniformed and civilian personnel within the Department of Defense conducting and supporting space operations, centralizing management of space professionals. The Space Force will also create career paths for military and civilian space personnel, to include operations, intelligence, engineering, science, acquisitions, and cyber. While establishing the Space Force, the Defense Department intends to utilize inter-service transfers, initial lateral entry, direct commission authorities, career incentive pays and retention bonuses, and waivers to accession policy.
Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) was redesignated as the Space Force by the 2020 NDAA, elevated to become the new service. All of AFSPC's former personnel, organizations, and components were then assigned to the Space Force. AFSPC's principal components were 14th Air Force, which controls operations, and the Space and Missile Systems Center, which is responsible for research and acquisitions.
The first organizational change occurred on December 20, 2019, when the Fourteenth Air Force/Air Forces Strategic was redesignated as Space Operations Command (SPOC). Major General John E. Shaw, former Commander, Fourteenth Air Force, was redesignated as Commander, Space Operations Command; in addition to Shaw’s role as U.S. Space Command’s Combined Force Space Component Commander.
- 21st Space Wing (21 SW), Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado
- 30th Space Wing (30 SW), Vandenberg Air Force Base, California
- 45th Space Wing (45 SW), Patrick Air Force Base, Florida
- 50th Space Wing (50 SW), Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado
- 460th Space Wing (460 SW), Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado
- 614th Air Operations Center (614 AOC), Vandenberg Air Force Base, California
All members of the former Air Force Space Command are currently detailed to the U.S. Space Force, with members in specific specialties being transferred to the new service in the 18 months after the Space Force's establishment in December 2019. Members of the Army and Navy will also be detailed to the Space Force. There are currently 16,000 individuals assigned to the Space Force.
Early military space program (1945–1982)
Military space activities began immediately after the conclusion of World War II, with General of the Army Hap Arnold, commanding general of the United States Army Air Forces, becoming an early visionary for the potential of military space operations. In 1946 General Arnold directed Dr. Theodore von Kármán the RAND Corporation to determine the feasibility of a satellite for strategic reconnaissance. In 1946 this study identified nearly all current space mission areas, including intelligence, weather forecasting, communications, and navigation.
After the United States Air Force gained its independence in 1947, General Bernard Schriever was appointed to head the Western Development Division, made responsible for the Air Force's space and intercontinental ballistic missile programs. It was responsible for developing the Advanced Reconnaissance System, which would have been the Air Force's first satellite constellation. On 4 October 1957 the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, which was the world's first satellite. This event transformed space development overnight, helping the national security establishment understand the importance of the space domain.
Early military space development was marked by strong interservice rivalry, with each developing their own proposals for satellites and launch vehicles. The first American satellite was the Army Ballistic Missile Agency's Explorer 1 which was launched on the Naval Research Laboratory's Vanguard rocket. The Air Force still continued military space development amidst this competition from the Army and Navy. In 1958 the newly formed Advanced Research Projects Agency assumed control over all military space programs, but this centralization was short lived and in gave control back to the services in September 1959. The creation of NASA in 1958 significantly hampered the Army and Navy's space programs, absorbing the Army's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Army Ballistic Missile Agency and Navy's Project Vanguard and Minitrack satellite tracking network, but only absorbed the Air Force's Man in Space Soonest program, merging it with Project Mercury.
Development of Air Force space systems continued with the Missile Defense Alarm System (MIDAS) and Strategic Air Command's SAMOS reconnaissance satellites, as well as the Thor, Atlas, and Titan space launch vehicles. The Air Force and Central Intelligence Agency also jointly developed and operated the Corona reconnaissance satellite. The development of reconnaissance satellites became a national priority after an American U-2 reconnaissance plane was shot down over the Soviet Union, making aerial reconnaissance impractical. In 1961 the National Reconnaissance Office was created as a joint Air Force–CIA activity to manage all spy satellites.
In 1961, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara designated the Air Force as the lead military service for space, further relegating the space programs of the Army and Navy. The relationship between the Air Force space program and NASA continued to grow closer, with agreements being reached to share information and personnel. The Air Force also began development on the crewed Boeing X-20 Dyna-Soar spaceplane and Manned Orbiting Laboratory, both of which were later canceled as their functions could be carried out by uncrewed systems. General Schriever's advocacy for military space led to the 1961 establishment of Air Force Systems Command (AFSC), which included a dedicated Space Systems Directorate to centralize all space development, separating it from the missile program. Prior to Air Force Systems Command's creation, spacecraft design, acquisitions, and launch was split between Air Material Command and Air Force Research and Development Command, however, the new command centralized all of these activities.
The Air Force provided space support to forces during the Vietnam War, with a focus on providing space–based weather and communications capabilities. In the 1970s development began on the Global Positioning System, Defense Satellite Communications System, and Defense Support Program missile warning satellites. The Space Shuttle also began development, with significant Air Force input. For much of the 1960s and 1970s, Air Force space operations were centralized in Aerospace Defense Command, but it was disestablished in 1980, transferring its space surveillance and missile warning systems to Strategic Air Command. In 1979, Air Force doctrine recognized space as a mission area for the first time, and led to the creation of a space division on the Air Staff. Air Force Systems Command also established a deputy commander for space operations.
Air Force Space Command (1982–2019)
Towards the 1980s, the Air Force began to realize that it was insufficiently organized for military space operations, with assets and responsibilities split across Strategic Air Command, Air Force Systems Command, the Aerospace Defense Center, and the Air Staff. In 1979, the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board concluded that "currently, the Air Force is inadequately organized for operational exploitation of space and has placed insufficient emphasis on inclusion of space systems in an integrated force study." In 1981, the Air Force took a measure to address this discontinuity, establishing the consolidated space operations center in Colorado Springs and began discussing the creation of a space command to centralize its space activities. On 1 September 1982, Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) was created as an Air Force major command. Air Force Space Command centralized all space operations, including missile warning, launch operations, satellite control, space domain awareness, and satellite communications.
Air Force Space Command was absolutely critical during the Persian Gulf War, which would later be described as the first space war by Air Force Chief of Staff General Merrill McPeak. Specifically, its GPS support enabled the left hook across the Iraq desert. Defense Meteorological Support Program satellites provided a significant amount of weather data and over 90% of communications were provided by satellite systems. The Defense Support Program early-warning satellites provided indications of SCUD launches to fielded forces.
In the 1990s, AFSPC led the development of the MILSTAR communications satellite constellation and completed the GPS constellation. In accordance with the recommendations of the 2001 Space Commission, the Space and Missile Systems Center was transferred from Air Force Material Command to Air Force Space Command, becoming its integral research and acquisitions arm. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, Air Force Space Command provided space support as part of the global war on terrorism.
The idea of an independent service for U.S. military space operations had been under consideration by 2001. The 2001 Space Commission, chaired by former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld and composed of a number of military, space, and intelligence professionals, was set up to examine the national security space organization of the United States. The commission itself concluded that the military needed to develop space–specific doctrine, operations concepts, and capabilities – including the development and deployment of space–based weapons. The Space Commission came to the conclusion that the Air Force treated space operations as a secondary mission in comparison to air operations, and recommended the creation of a space corps within the Department of the Air Force, and in the long term, creating a military department for space.
The Space Development Agency was formed by Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan on 12 March 2019 as the space-focused development agency that would become a part of the Space Force when established. The agency's first priority is the creation of a hyper-sonic tracking network of low earth orbit satellites as Russia and China are working on hyper-sonic missiles.
In 2017, after nearly two decades of inaction, a bipartisan proposal to create the U.S. Space Corps, as a military service within the Department of the Air Force, was put forward by Representatives Mike Rogers and Jim Cooper. This was done specifically due to the realization that the Air Force's space mission had become a secondary concern in contrast with the air dominance mission. The proposal passed in the House of Representatives, but was cut from the final bill in negotiations with the U.S. Senate.
The proposal gained new life when President Donald Trump first publicly spoke about an independent space force during a March 2018 speech. In a June 2018 meeting of the National Space Council, he directed the Department of Defense to begin the necessary processes to establish the U.S. Space Force as a branch of the Armed Forces. On 19 February 2019, Space Policy Directive–4 was signed, initially calling for the placement of the U.S. Space Force within the Department of the Air Force, before later creating and transferring the service to the Department of the Space Force.
Legislative provisions for the Space Force were included in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump during a signing ceremony at Joint Base Andrews on 20 December 2019. The Space Force was established as the sixth armed service branch, with Air Force General John "Jay" Raymond, the head of Air Force Space Command and U.S. Space Command, becoming the first Chief of Space Operations. On 14 January 2020, Raymond was officially sworn in as chief of space operations by Vice President Mike Pence. Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett approved the transfer of 14th U.S. Air Force to the Space Force and re-designated as Space Operations Command, with the transfer effective 20 December 2019. The former commander of the 14th Air Force, Maj. Gen. John E. Shaw, was appointed commander of Space Operations Command while also serves as U.S. Space Command’s Combined Force Space Component commander.
About 16,000 Air Force active duty and civilian personnel are to be assigned to the Space Force while the branch is gradually integrated into the U.S. Armed Forces ecosystem, including establishing independent procedures for manning equipment, training personnel, and creating uniforms, ranks, logo, patch, awards, and official song, reportedly within an 18-month period.
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- Official website
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- on YouTube
- H.R.2810 — National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 — House version, United States Congress
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