- As of December 20, the US military officially has a Space Force.
- It will exist within the department of the Air Force and support US Space Command, but many more details are still being worked out – including which Air Force bases are getting new names.
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The US’s long-awaited Space Force was officially established on December 20, when President Donald Trump signed the 2020 National Defence Authorization Act.
Space Force was created from US Air Force Space Command but is still part of the Air Force, much like the Marine Corps is a part of the Navy Department. Space Force is not meant to put troops into space but will provide forces and assets to Space Command, which leads US military space operations.
The secretary of the Air Force has to tell Congress by February 1 how Space Force will be organised and its expected funding needs. But there are still “thousands and thousands of actions that are going to have to take place” over the next 18 months, Air Force Gen. Jay Raymond said on December 20
Among those is the renaming of Air Force bases to reflect the space mission, according to Raymond, who is head of US Space Command and will lead Space Force as its first chief of space operations.
“We do have a plan to rename the principal Air Force bases that house space units to be space bases,” Raymond said.
“I just want to point out, though, that we will rely very heavily on the Air Force to operate those bases,” he added. “But we’ll work to rename those to match the mission of the base.”
Raymond mentioned five Air Force bases that could be renamed – Patrick Air Force Base, for example, could become Patrick Space Base – but he said “his list wasn’t necessarily all inclusive,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said in an email last week, adding that the service was “still working through the details” and didn’t currently have any other information about renaming bases.
Below, you can see some of the bases that may soon have new names.
Buckley Air Force Base
Located in Aurora, Colorado, Buckley AFB’s host unit is the 460th Space Wing, the mission of which is “to deliver global infrared surveillance, tracking and missile warning for theatre and homeland defence and provide combatant commanders with expeditionary warrior airmen.”
In its day-to-day operations, the 460th SW directly supports combatant commands around the world.
Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station
Cheyenne Mountain AFS is located near Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, home to the headquarters of North American Aerospace Defence Command and US Northern Command.
While Raymond didn’t mention Cheyenne Mountain by name, it is a big part of US space operations. It is the alternate command centre for NORAD and Northern Command and is a training site for crew qualification.
“NORAD and USNORTHCOM use just under 30% of the floor space within the complex and comprise approximately 5% of the daily population at Cheyenne Mountain,” according to NORAD. But it is owned and operated by Air Force Space Command, which is now Space Force.
Peterson Air Force Base
In addition to hosting the headquarters for NORAD and Northern Command, Peterson Air Force Base is headquarters for Air Force Space Command and now for Space Force.
It is also home to the 21st Space Wing, the Air Force’s most geographically dispersed wing and the fifth-largest wing in the Air Force by number of units.
“We literally cover the world with our operations,” the base’s website says.
The 21st SW uses a network of command-and-control units as well as ground- and space-based sensors operated by units around the world to provide missile warning and space control to NORAD.
Schriever Air Force Base
East of Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs, Schriever AFB’s host unit is the 50th Space Wing, the mission of which is “to evolve space and cyberspace warfighting superiority through integrated and innovative operations.”
The 50th SW and its 16 units around the world provide “command and control of more than 185 satellites, to include commercial, DoD and civil assets,” the base’s website says.
The wing runs satellite operation centres at Schriever AFB and remote-tracking stations and command-and-control facilities across the planet, at which it monitors satellites throughout their service life.
Among the space operations that the wing supports are the Global Positioning System, defence meteorological and surveillance programs, and the mysterious X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle.
Vandenberg Air Force Base
Located in a remote area north of Los Angeles, Vandenberg AFB is headquarters for the 30th Space Wing, which manages space and missile testing for the Pentagon, launches satellites and spacecraft, and supports the Minuteman III ICBM force development evaluation program.
Vandenberg is also home to the 14th Air Force, which on December 27 was redesignated as Space Operations Command, which “directly supports the US Space Force’s mission to protect the interests of the United States in space; deter aggression in, from and to space; and conduct space operations.”
SPOC comprises the five space wings on this list as well as the 614th Air and Space Operations Centre, which is the SPOC commander’s command-and-control centre at Vandenberg.
Among other things, SPOC will provide space domain awareness and electronic warfare, satellite communications, missile-warning and nuclear-detonation detection, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance for Space Force and Space Command and other combatant commands.
Patrick Air Force Base
Patrick Air Force Base is on Florida’s Atlantic coast near Orlando, and its host unit is the 45th Space Wing.
The wing operates the Eastern Range, which supports rocket and missile launches at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Kennedy Space Centre. It also oversees satellite launches at Cape Canaveral for the US military and civilian agencies and commercial entities.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was launched from Cape Canaveral on Monday with Starlink satellites in the first launch of 2020 and the wing’s first launch as a part of Space Force.
“The effects the new Space Force will have on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Patrick Air Force Base has not been announced yet, but continuing to successfully accomplish the mission without interruption is our top priority,” 45th Wing commander Brig. Gen. Doug Schiess said January 3.