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Space Command Begins, Streamlining Space-Based Military Efforts And Paving Way For Space Force

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., (Oct. 4, 2017) A ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the NROL-52 mission stands poised for launch. Photo: ULA.
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., (Oct. 4, 2017) A ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the NROL-52 mission stands poised for launch. Photo: ULA.

The Space Command is coming online this week.  It’s a key step in the creation of a brand new military branch -- Space Force. 

The Space Command will streamline space-based efforts across military branches. While it’s not the Space Force the President has called for, it will be a combatant command group of about 87 units headed by Air Force General John Raymond.

The Space Command will help protect space-based assets like spy satellites from adversaries. The group will also take control of the National Reconnaissance Office, operator of the nation's spy satellites, in times of war.

“We think, and we’re pretty confident that the Russians and Chinese, for example, have developed satellites that can approach our satellites and possible do damage to them,” said UCF political scientists Rodger Handberg.

Vice President Mike Pence and military leaders made the case for additional resources for space defense at the National Space Council meeting in Virginia last week. Pence said the Space Command will go online August 29.

Florida leaders pushed for the Air Force to headquarter the Space Command in Florida, but the state didn’t make a final list of locations released by the Air Force earlier this year.

While the Space Command was authorized by President Trump, Congress will have to approve the creation of the Space Force by funding it. Both chambers budgeted for the new military branch in spending drafts and a conference committee meets next month.

The branch won’t have space soldiers or naval-style battles in orbit. “That doesn’t exist yet," said Handberg. "The Space Force is initially going to be satellite drivers. People are going to sit in rooms and look like they’re doing video games, except they’re real satellites dealing with real-time operations.”

If approved, the Space Force will be the first new military branch in more than 70 years.

Brendan Byrne is Central Florida Public Media's Assistant News Director, managing the day-to-day operations of the newsroom, editing daily news stories, and managing the organization's internship program. Byrne also hosts Central Florida Public Media's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration, and the weekly news roundup podcast "The Wrap."