Trump signs order for US Space Command overseeing US military space operations

A Delta IV rocket carrying the Parker Solar Probe lifts off from launch complex 37 at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral Florida

Announcing the move today, Vice President Mike Pence said the Space Force would become the sixth branch of the United States military and would herald "a new era of American national security in space". Pentagon officials said they expected such recommendations to be made within "the next several weeks", but they declined to provide names of flag officers under consideration.

The directive had always been expected.

DefenseOne reported in July that the DoD meant to create a new combatant command exclusively focused on space before lawmakers begin debating a Space Force proposal in the fiscal 2020 budget. For example, China has recently displayed the ability to hit satellites with missiles and Russian Federation has vowed to develop space-based laser weaponry.

Speaking at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Vice President Mike Pence said, "a new era of American national security in space begins today".

The White House announcement said Mattis will provide Trump with nominations for the commander and deputy commander of Space Command and that the new command "will strengthen" space operations while also helping to "streamline command and control of time-sensitive operations" and "consolidate space operations under a single authority". The U.S. Military already has 10 major combatant commands, including Central Command (CENTCOM) and Cyber Command.

US President Donald Trump signs an executive order in the Roosevelt Room of the White House Washington
US President Donald Trump signs an executive order in the Roosevelt Room of the White House Washington

Pence had announced during a December 12 visit to NASA that he will head to "The World's Premier Gateway to Space" at Cape Canaveral to watch a satellite launch by SpaceX, the space transportation services company founded by Elon Musk.

Selva told reporters in August that there are approximately 18,000 U.S. military and civilian personnel in the Department of Defense who are involved in space operations, helping to oversee some 140 satellites. Unlike the creation of a military service, the establishment of Space Command won't require Congressional legislation.

Experts told shortly after Trump first floated the idea over this summer that the space force would need somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 active personnel - augmented by a small army of civilian contractors - and that a service academy like the U.S. Military Academy at West Point or the Air Force Academy in Colorado would need to be established to train its future leaders. Air Force's next-generation GPS III satellite into space. Creating the Space Force, however, is dependent on action in Congress - and with Democrats taking charge of the House, there's a chance that the force may take a form different from what the White House originally envisioned.

In September, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson estimated establishing the new military branch could cost up to $13 billion.

Once both organizations are up and running, Shanahan added, the differences between Space Force and U.S. Space Command will "largely parallel those of the other five military services and four functional combatant commands".

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