The Pentagon has formally established the US Space Command, tasked with deterring US rivals from “challenging American space assets or operations” – and, it hopes, serving as a stepping stone to an independent Space Force.
“The dangers to our country constantly evolve, and so must we,” President Donald Trump said at a ceremony marking the establishment of the military’s 11th combatant command on Thursday. “Now those that wish to harm the United States to seek to challenge us in the ultimate high ground of space – it’s gonna be a whole different ball game.”
The ultimate goal of Space Command – and the Space Force Trump and the Pentagon hope it will become – is to have the capacity to “degrade, deny, disrupt, destroy, and manipulate adversary capabilities to protect US interests, assets, and way of life,” according to internal documents. After years of watching its rivals moving effortlessly through space – NASA relies on Russian technology to ferry its astronauts to the International Space Station, while China has beaten the US to the dark side of the moon – the US wants revenge. Or if not, at least to load up earth orbit with as many weapons as possible.
The new command is led by Air Force General Jay Raymond, who took the occasion to put Russia, China, and “other powers” that might “challenge” American assets or operations on notice.
“Our adversaries have had a front-row seat to our many successes of integrating space [into war] and they are developing capabilities to negate our access to space,” he told reporters ahead of the ceremony.
Space Command is currently housed at the Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, though the administration hopes to launch an independent Space Force as soon as 2020. The command takes charge of some 18,000 service members and civilians involved in space operations.
There technically was a “Space Command” that existed from 1985 until 2002, when it was scrapped to make way for the US Northern Command as the Pentagon pivoted toward the War on Terror. Aside from the name, however, the new version bears little resemblance to the Space Command of two decades ago.