WASHINGTON — The U.S. Space Command was officially launched today, the first step toward adding a new armed branch of military service focused on defending — and perhaps coordinating offensive strikes — from outer space.
The Space Command becomes one of 11 unified combatant command authorities, meaning it draws forces from all the service branches. It will be led by Air Force Gen. John Raymond and begins with 87 people, Pentagon officials said.
“To ensure the protection of America’s interests in space, we must apply the necessary focus, energy and resources to the task, and that is exactly what Space Command will do,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper told Pentagon reporters Wednesday.
“As a unified combatant command, the United States Space Command is the next crucial step towards the creation of an independent Space Force as an additional armed service,” he said.
There currently is a Space Command as part of the Air Force; established in 1962, it will continue to operate in a limited capacity to train and equip forces.
Creating a Space Command does not require congressional approval, although the idea has bicameral and bipartisan support. It is designed to be the first step toward creating the U.S. Space Force, which would require Congressional approval. It is unclear if Congress will approved President Donald Trump’s request for the space force.
The original U.S. Space Command took hold in 1982 but was mothballed 20 years later when U.S. Northern Command was established as a response to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
The last unified command was created in 2009 with U.S. Cyber Command.
Trump ordered the Pentagon to create a sixth military branch in June 2018. The Congressional Budget Office projected that a Space Force could add up to $2 billion per year to the Pentagon’s annual budget, following almost $5 billion in start-up costs.