The White House has announced plans to create a military wing dedicated to the celestial realm – including, of particular note, a Space Force that Trump first proposed in March 2018.
Now, the government has set a launch date for the United States Space Command, the Pentagon's unified combatant command relating to all defense operations in space: August 29, 2019.
"Next week, we will formally stand up the new unified combatant command that will be known as the United States Space Command," Vice President Mike Pence told the audience at the sixth meeting of the National Space Council at the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, on Tuesday.
"And I’m pleased to announce that we will recognize its new leader. Four-star Air Force General John Raymond will be the first leader of the United States Space Command."
The US Space Command will be the Department of Defense's (DoD) 11th unified combatant command. Others include the US Special Operations Command, US Strategic Command, and US Transport Command as well as various regional departments (for example, US Africa Command and US Europe Command). As Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said on Twitter, its job will be to "serve as the operational command that will employ space capabilities and lead space operations."
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford told attendees a formal ceremony to launch the US Space Command has been scheduled for August 29, 2019. From then on, the department will comprise of 87 staff reporting to Raymond, who is set to take on the role having previously served as commander of the Air Force Space Command.
The launch takes us all one step closer to the much talked (and mocked) about Space Force, which if established could become the sixth armed service branch in the military – behind the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy. Its role would be to provide "a force provider for personnel, assets, and capabilities supporting space operations," explains Shanahan.
Pence touched on the this in his speech, calling on the need for space-based security (even though the Air Force already covers this).
"[F]or the sake of our security, both here on Earth and in the heavens above, at President Trump’s direction we are working with Congress as we speak to stand up a new branch of our armed forces," he said.
"And soon, Congress will approve and the President will sign the sixth branch of the Armed Forces of the United States: The United States Space Force."
Although plans to create a similar-sounding "Space Corps" were eventually scrapped in 2017, the White House's "Space Force" might have a better shot. While it is yet to pass Congress, both chambers have included a space military branch in their respective versions of the annual defense policy bill – so watch this space (pun intended).