The new United States Space Command has officially blasted off, with President Donald Trump presiding over the launch ceremony in Washington.
That should say relaunch ceremony as the US used to have a space command, which existed from 1985 until 2002 when it was dissolved by the administration of President George Bush administration, its functions absorbed by US Strategic Command.
At the time, the US had embarked on the war on terror and needed to free up resources to create US Northern Command to oversee homeland defence.
In December last year, the Trump administration directed that Space Command be re-established as a full unified combatant command, with responsibilities for space warfighting previously held under Strategic Command.
However, the US Congress still needs to approve the elevation of Space Command to full unified combatant command.
President Trump told the ceremony at the White House Rose Garden that SPACECOM will boldly deter aggression and outpace America’s rivals.
“Our adversaries are weaponising Earth’s orbits with new technology targeting American satellites that are critical to both battlefield operations and our way of life at home,” he said.
“Our freedom to operate in space is also essential to detecting and destroying any missile launched against the United States.”
The Commander of USSPACECOM is Air Force General John Raymond, who told reporters at the Pentagon that while the new command shared its name with its predecessor, it was different.
He said space was a vital domain, critical to national security and the economy, and was no longer a benign environment.
He said Space Command would have a sharper mission focus on protecting and defending space assets, a stronger unified structure with intelligence partners and a closer connection to partners and other US warfighting commands.
“Our goal is to deter conflict. The best way is to prepare to fight if deterrence were to fail,” he said.
China and Russia are considered the nations most likely to pose a threat to US satellites because of their rapid advances in the type of weapons that could disable or destroy satellites.
Initially, USSPACECOM will be temporarily headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. The US Air Force is considering six possible sites for a permanent headquarters.
GEN Raymond said Space Command would start out small, with fewer than 300 people in the headquarters.
The aim is to reach initial operational capability in the next 12 months and full operational capability in the years after that.
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