United States Space Force

Summary

The United States Space Force (USSF) is the space service branch of the United States Armed Forces. Along with the Air Force, it is part of the Department of the Air Force, led by the secretary of the Air Force.[8] Its military heads are the chief of space operations, who is one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the vice chief of space operations.

United States Space Force

Space Force Delta
Founded20 December 2019; 4 years ago (2019-12-20)
Country United States
TypeSpace force
Size
  • 8,600 military personnel[1][2]
  • 77 spacecraft[3]
Part ofUnited States Armed Forces
Department of the Air Force
HeadquartersThe Pentagon
Arlington County, Virginia, U.S.[4]
Motto(s)
  • Semper Supra
  • "Always above"[5]
March"Semper Supra"[6]
Anniversaries20 December
EquipmentSee spacecraft and space systems
Engagements

As U.S. Space Force

Website
  • spaceforce.mil
  • spaceforce.com
Commanders
Commander-in-Chief President Joe Biden
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin
Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall III
Chief of Space Operations Gen B. Chance Saltzman
Vice Chief of Space Operations Gen Michael Guetlein
Chief Master Sergeant of the Space Force CMSSF John F. Bentivegna
Insignia
Flag
Seal
Delta, Globe, and Orbit
Logo

The Space Force is the smallest U.S. armed service, consisting of 8,600 military personnel.[1] It operates 77 spacecraft in total across various programs such as GPS, Space Fence, military satellite communications constellations, X-37B spaceplanes, U.S. missile warning system, U.S. space surveillance network, and the Satellite Control Network. Under the Goldwater–Nichols Act, the Space Force is responsible for organizing, training, and equipping space forces, which are then presented to the unified combatant commands, predominantly to United States Space Command, for operational employment.

The U.S. Space Force traces its roots to the beginning of the Cold War, with the first military space programs starting in 1945. In 1954, the Air Force established the Western Development Division, the world's first dedicated space organization, under General Bernard Schriever and unified its space forces under Air Force Space Command in 1982. U.S. space forces have participated in every U.S. conflict since the Vietnam War, most notably in the Persian Gulf War, often referred to as the first "space war".

The first discussion of a U.S. Space Force occurred under President Dwight Eisenhower's administration in 1958 and it was nearly established in 1982 by President Ronald Reagan as part of the Strategic Defense Initiative. The 2001 Space Commission argued for the creation of a Space Corps around 2007–2011, but due to the September 11 attacks and war on terror any plans were put on hold. In 2017, Representatives Jim Cooper and Mike Rogers' proposal for a Space Corps passed the House but failed in the Senate. In 2019, the House and Senate resolved their differences to pass the United States Space Force Act. It was signed into law by President Donald Trump, establishing the U.S. Space Force as the first new independent military service since the Army Air Forces were reorganized as the U.S. Air Force in 1947.[9]

Mission

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As outlined in 10 U.S.C. § 9081 and originally introduced in the United States Space Force Act, the Space Force is organized, trained, and equipped to:

  1. Provide freedom of operation for the United States in, from, and to space;
  2. Conduct space operations; and
  3. Protect the interests of the United States in space.

The Department of Defense further defines the specified functions of the Space Force to:[10]

  1. Provide freedom of operation for the United States in, from, and to space.
  2. Provide prompt and sustained space operations.
  3. Protect the interests of the United States in space.
  4. Deter aggression in, from, and to space.
  5. Conduct space operations.

Cornerstone responsibilities and core competencies

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On 10 August 2020, the Space Force released its capstone doctrine, Spacepower: Doctrine for Space Forces, further expanding on its enumerated missions and duties. In Spacepower, the Space Force defines its three cornerstone responsibilities of military space forces, which it articulates why spacepower is vital to U.S. prosperity and security.[11]

  1. Preserve freedom of action: Unfettered access to and freedom to operate in space is a vital national interest; it is the ability to accomplish all four components of national power – diplomatic, information, military, and economic – of a nation's implicit or explicit space strategy. Military space forces fundamentally exist to protect, defend, and preserve this freedom of action.
  2. Enable Joint Lethality and Effectiveness: Space capabilities strengthen operations in the other domains of warfare and reinforce every Joint function – the US does not project or employ power without space. At the same time, military space forces must rely on military operations in the other domains to protect and defend space freedom of action. Military space forces operate as part of the closely integrated Joint Force across the entire conflict continuum in support of the full range of military operations.
  3. Provide Independent Options: A central tenet of military spacepower is the ability to independently achieve strategic effects. In this capacity, military spacepower is more than an adjunct to landpower, seapower, airpower, and cyberpower. Across the conflict continuum, military spacepower provides national leadership with independent military options that advance the nation's prosperity and security. Military space forces achieve national objectives by projecting power in, from, and to space.
 
Concept for a Space Force Rocket Cargo program conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations

The cornerstone responsibilities are executed through the five military spacepower core competencies:[11]

  1. Space Security: establishes and promotes stable conditions for the safe and secure access to space activities for civil, commercial, intelligence community, and multinational partners.
  2. Combat Power Projection: integrates defensive and offensive operations to maintain a desired level of freedom of action relative to an adversary. Combat Power Projection in concert with other competencies enhances freedom of action by deterring aggression or compelling an adversary to change behavior.
  3. Space Mobility and Logistics (SML): enables movement and support of military equipment and personnel in the space domain, from the space domain back to Earth, and to the space domain.
  4. Information Mobility: provides timely, rapid and reliable collection and transportation of data across the range of military operations in support of tactical, operational, and strategic decision making.
  5. Space Domain Awareness (SDA) encompasses the effective identification, characterization and understanding of any factor associated with the space domain that could affect space operations and thereby impact the security, safety, economy, or environment of our Nation.

History

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Early military space development

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Launch of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency's Explorer 1, America's first satellite

Following the end of World War II, each of the military services began to turn to space. General of the Army Henry H. Arnold, commander of the Army Air Forces identified spaceflight as a critical military capability, with each of the services developing parallel space and rocket programs.[12]

In 1954 the Air Force created the first dedicated space organization in the world, creating the Western Development Division under General Bernard Schriever.[13][14] The Army followed shortly after, establishing the Army Ballistic Missile Agency in 1955, led by General John Bruce Medaris and former German scientist Wernher von Braun. Both these organizations, along with the Naval Research Laboratory, were vital in developing the first American rockets and spacecraft.[15]

The launch of Sputnik 1 and the initial failure of the Naval Research Laboratory's Project Vanguard reinvigorated the military space program, with the Army successfully launching America's first satellite, Explorer 1 on a Juno 1 rocket. Sputnik also prompted a short-lived consolidation of military space under the Advanced Research Projects Agency. Despite concerns within the existing military services that the Advanced Research Project Agency would evolve into a U.S. Space Force, space authorities were returned to the Army, Navy, and Air Forces.[16]

However, the newly established National Aeronautics and Space Administration absorbed the Army Ballistic Missile Agency and the Navy's Project Vanguard in 1959, leaving the Air Force mostly unscathed. In 1961, the Air Force was designated the military's executive agent for space, giving it leadership within the Department of Defense.[16]

Military space operations in the Cold War

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Based on the Gemini spacecraft, the Manned Orbiting Laboratory was intended to serve as an orbital reconnaissance spacecraft

While the Air Force had overall leadership in space, the Army and Navy still had space missions, with the Army and Navy responsible for operating elements of satellite communications systems and the Navy leading the development and operation of satellite navigation systems. Established in 1962 as the world's first military space operations command, the Navy Astronautics Group was created to operate the Navy's communication and navigation satellites.[17] The first military employment of space forces occurred during the Vietnam War, with the Air Force using its weather and communications satellites to support ground and air operations in theater. Early military spacecraft included the Air Force's Defense Satellite Communications System, Vela nuclear detonation detection satellites, the Missile Defense Alarm System, and the Navy's Transit and Timation navigation satellites [16] Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy were strong advocates of the United States' space programs – both military and civil. During President Kennedy's We choose to go to the Moon speech, he declared:

Space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man. And only if the United States occupies a position of preeminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theatre of war. I do not say that we should or will go unprotected against the hostile misuse of space, any more than we go unprotected against the hostile use of land or sea.[18]

 
The X-20 Dyna Soar was intended to be the Air Force's first spaceplane

Each of the military services also provided significant support to NASA's civil space program, with the Army Ballistic Missile Agency's Project Adam and Air Force's Man in Space Soonest programs forming the basis for NASA's Project Mercury. The Army and Air Force developed all of NASA's pre-Saturn V space launch vehicles, with the Army Ballistic Missile Agency designing the Redstone and Saturn I, while the Air Force repurposed the Atlas.[15] The Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy provided all of NASA's early astronauts and led astronaut rescue and recovery missions. The Air Force also provided range support for NASA launches from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.[16]

Concerned by Soviet orbital flights, the Air Force strongly pushed for a crewed military spaceflight program. General Curtis LeMay drew parallels between space operations in the 1960s and air operations in World War I, describing how airplanes quickly evolved from peaceful chivalric, unarmed reconnaissance flights to combat efforts designed to destroy enemy air superiority and that it would be naive to believe that the same trends were not expected to be seen and prepared for in space. Although the Air Force made significant progress towards the development of the Boeing X-20 Dyna-Soar spaceplane, Manned Orbiting Laboratory, and Blue Gemini, ultimately political opposition from the Department of Defense prevented them from being operationally fielded.[16]

 
Cobra Dane radar at Eareckson Air Station, Alaska

Although unsuccessful in fielding human military spacecraft, the Air Force and Army successfully led the development of anti-satellite weapons. The Air Force's Project SAINT was an early satellite inspector, which also had "satellite neutralization" capabilities, however it was canceled in 1962 by the Defense Department when details were leaked to The New York Times.[19] As the lead service for missile defense, the Army also developed the Nike Zeus anti-ballistic missile to have satellite interception capability. On 23 May 1963, a Nike Zeus launched from Kwajalein Atoll successfully intercepted an Agena-D target vehicle and was put on ready alert until 1964.[20] The Army's Nike Zeus ASAT was replaced by the Air Force's Program 437, which used nuclear-tipped Thor missile to intercept satellites, until the program was deactivated in 1975.[16]

The Strategic Defense Initiative and Persian Gulf War

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A Defense Support Program missile warning spacecraft deploys from the Space Shuttle Atlantis on the STS-44 mission

Dissatisfied with the current status of military space operations within the Air Force, Representative Ken Kramer introduced a resolution to rename the U.S. Air Force to the U.S. Aerospace Force to force a new focus on space and rumors spread that President Ronald Reagan would announce the establishment of a U.S. Space Force. These two developments spurred Air Force leadership into action, establishing Air Force Space Command in 1982 to consolidate its space forces under a single major command.[16] In 1985, President Reagan created United States Space Command as a unified combatant command for space, with Air Force Space Command as its primary service provider. Naval Space Command was established 1985 and the Army Space Command was created in 1988 to serve as their service components to U.S. Space Command.[21]

The establishment of U.S. Space Command, Air Force Space Command, and the Strategic Defense Initiative by President Reagan led to a renaissance of military space operations. In September 1985, a U.S. Air Force F-15 conducted a test launch of the ASM-135 anti-satellite missile, destroying the Solwind satellite. The Air Force and Navy proceeded to deploy modernized satellites, such as the Air Force's Global Positioning System, Milstar communications satellite, the Defense Support Program missile warning constellation, and the Navy's Fleet Satellite Communications system.[22]

 
An F-15A Eagle launches an ASM-135 ASAT, intercepting the Solwind satellite on 13 September 1985

The Persian Gulf War proved to be a decisive moment for military space operations, with space forces providing critical tactical support to coalition land, air, and naval forces. Over sixty satellites provided 90% of theater communications and command and control for a multinational army of 500,000 troops, weather support for mission planners, early warning of Iraqi Scud missile launches, and satellite navigation for air and land forces moving across a featureless desert.[16][23] This critical degree of support led to the Persian Gulf War being coined "the first Space War."[24]

Despite the decisive role played by space forces during the Persian Gulf War, there were a number of Air Force generals who sought to merge air and space into a seamless aerospace continuum, to the determent of space. This drew the ire of prominent congressmen, with Senator Bob Smith, in particular, proposing an independent space force. Congress established the establishing the commission to Assess United States National Security Space Management and Organization, better known as the Space Commission, to investigate the matter.[25]

Chaired by Donald Rumsfeld, the Space Commission released its report in 2001. Key recommendations included no longer exclusively assigning pilots to be commander of U.S. Space Command. The commission noted that fewer than 20% of top space leaders had a space background, with the majority being drawn from the pilot, Army Air Defense Artillery, or nuclear and missile operations and that the average individual had only spent 2.5 years of their careers in space positions. Ultimately, the Space Commission recommended the establishment of a separate Space Force as a military branch in the long term, with the establishment of a Space Corps, analogous to the Army Air Forces within the U.S. Air Force in the between 2007 and 2011.[26]

Space Force independence

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Air Force Space Command activation ceremony on 1 September 1982

Despite the recommendations of the Space Commission, the September 11 attacks and Global War on Terror prevented the continued evolution of military space forces. To make way for the establishment of U.S. Northern Command, U.S. Space Command was shut down and its functions were merged into United States Strategic Command in 2002.[27] Naval Space Command was shut down shortly prior to U.S. Space Command, transferring the Naval Space Surveillance System to Air Force Space Command.[21] Army Space Command was first subordinated to Army Strategic Defense Command in 1992, with Army Space Command still existing under the new Army Space and Strategic Defense Command, renamed Army Space and Missile Defense Command in 1997.[28] Certain Space Commission recommendations were implemented, such as transferring the Space and Missile Systems Center from Air Force Materiel Command to Air Force Space Command.[29]

Air Force Space Command provided direct support to Operation Enduring Freedom, enabling satellite communications, global positioning system enhancements, and deployed personnel to support counterterrorism operations. For Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Air Force Space Command deployed space operators to forward operating bases in the Middle East and the Defense Satellite Communications System provided 80% of bandwidth for allied forces in theater, while 85% of Milstar communications capacity was directed towards support of tactical forces.[30]

 
Upgraded Early Warning Radar at Pituffik Space Base, Greenland

Following the inactivation of U.S. Space Command in 2002, Russia and China began developing sophisticated on-orbit capabilities and an array of counter-space weapons. In particular, China conducted the 2007 Chinese anti-satellite missile test, destroying its Fengyun spacecraft, which, according to NASA, created 2,841 high-velocity debris items, a larger amount of dangerous space junk than any other space event in history.[31][32] On 29 August 2019, United States Space Command was reestablished as a geographic combatant command.[33] In 2008, U.S. Strategic Command conducted Operation Burnt Frost to destroy a non-functioning National Reconnaissance Office satellite, before its toxic hydrazine tank could reenter and cause potential harm to human safety, with a RIM-161 Standard Missile 3 launched from the USS Lake Erie.[34][35]

 
Launch of a Delta IV Heavy from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station

Growing impatient with the Air Force, Representatives Jim Cooper (D-TN) and Mike Rogers (R-AL) unveiled a bipartisan proposal in the House of Representatives to establish the United States Space Corps as a separate military service within the Department of the Air Force to give space a greater cultural focus and help develop a leaner and faster space acquisitions system.[36] The Space Corps proposal was, in large part, spurred on by the development of the People's Liberation Army Strategic Support Force and the Russian Space Forces.[37] The proposal passed in the House of Representatives in July 2017, but the Senate rejected the Space Corps proposal in November 2017, removing it from the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 bill; instead the bill commissioned a study on the feasibility of the Space Corps due by the end of 2018.[38][39][40] The House's Space Corps proposal had also been objected to by the Trump administration's White House, which called the idea "premature", while other dissenters were Defense Secretary James Mattis, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein.[41]

In March 2018, President Donald Trump said that the creation of a Space Force was a "great idea" and "could happen".[40] In June 2018, Trump said that he had asked the Department of Defense to begin establishing a Space Force as part of the military.[42] In February 2019, the Department of Defense gave Congress a legislative proposal for creating the Space Force.[43] In June 2019 and July 2019, the Senate and the House passed their own versions of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, with the Senate proposing a Space Force, and the House (via Representatives Jim Cooper and Mike Rogers) proposing a Space Corps.[44][45][46] The Senate version had been proposed by the Senate Armed Services Committee, with Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND) having "played a key role in crafting" the leadership model of the Space Force, reported NPR.[45][47] Negotiations were required as the House, Senate, and the Department of Defense all disagreed with aspects of the Space Force / Space Corps plan.[48] On 9 December 2019, the Armed Services Committees of the House and the Senate announced an agreement regarding creating the Space Force.[49] By 17 December 2019, the House and the Senate, with vote margins of 377–48 and 82–8 respectively, passed a compromise version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 which included the Space Force.[50] The Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank commented that the version of the Space Force approved by Congress was a mixture of the proposals by the House and Senate: "While the decision on Title 10 authorities favored the House, many of the details of implementation favored the Senate, including the name of the new service and how space acquisition would be structured."[51]

On 20 December 2019, President Donald Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 into law, which included legislative provisions for creation of the Space Force, under the United States Space Force Act.[52][53] The Space Force was established as the sixth armed service branch, with Air Force General John W. Raymond, the commander of Air Force Space Command and U.S. Space Command, becoming the first chief of space operations.[54] On 14 January 2020, Raymond was officially sworn in as chief of space operations by Vice President Mike Pence.[55]

The sixth service

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An Atlas V conducts the first U.S. Space Force space launch on 26 March 2020

Following independence, all of Air Force Space Command's 16,000 active duty airmen and civilian employees were transferred to the U.S. Space Force, including the 21st Space Wing, 30th Space Wing, 45th Space Wing, 50th Space Wing, 460th Space Wing, and the 614th Air Operations Center.[56] Wings and groups were replaced by deltas in 2020 and the Space Force's field commands were activated in 2020 and 2021.[57] In 2020, the first Air Force space bases were renamed to Space Force bases.[58] In September 2020, the Space Force and NASA signed a memorandum of understanding formally acknowledging the joint role of both agencies. This new memorandum replaced a similar document signed in 2006 between NASA and Air Force Space Command.[59]

General Jay Raymond was followed into the service on 3 April 2020 by Chief Master Sergeant Roger A. Towberman, who became the Space Force's first enlisted member and senior enlisted advisor of the Space Force, and 86 U.S. Air Force Academy cadets who became the first Space Force lieutenants on 18 April 2020.[60] The Space Force also gained its first astronaut, with Colonel Michael S. Hopkins, the commander of SpaceX Crew-1, swearing into the Space Force from the International Space Station on 18 December 2020.[61][62][63]

 
15th Space Surveillance Squadron Ground-based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance telescope at White Sands Missile Range

The Space Force's first combat operations as a new service included providing early warning of Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Aerospace Force missile strikes against U.S. troops at Al Asad Airbase on 7 January 2020 through the 2nd Space Warning Squadron's Space Based Infrared System.[64] The Space Force also monitored Russian Space Forces spacecraft which had been tailing U.S. government satellites.[65]

One of the major reasons for creating the Space Force was consolidating military space activities across the Department of Defense. The Space Training and Readiness Delta (Provisional) was established in 2020 to bring over the remaining operational Air Force space activities spread across Air Education and Training Command and Air Combat Command, while Space Systems Command brought over the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center's Strategic Warning and Surveillance Systems Division in 2021.[66][67] The Space Force accepted a record number of interservice transfers from the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Marine Corps.[68] Additionally, in 2022 the Space Force accepted the transfer of the Naval Satellite Operations Center from the U.S. Navy and the Army's Satellite Operations Brigade, putting satellite communications under a single service for the first time.[69][70] In 2023, the Space Force assumed responsibility for the Army's Joint Tactical Ground Station, putting all missile warning under the Space Force.[71]

In August 2023, the US Space Force formed a new combative unit, the 75th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Squadron (ISRS), which has been tasked with targeting satellites and ground stations that are part of adversary space forces and counter-space force threats (space attack forces), namely, space capabilities designed by the enemy to deny the United States the ability to use its satellite systems during conflict.[72]

Organization

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U.S. Space Force patch shapes, 2021

The Space Force's field organizations consist of three different echelons of command:[73]

  • Field commands (FLDCOM): Align with a specific mission focus and are typically led by a lieutenant general or major general, although smaller component field commands and Space Force elements may have officers ranging from lieutenant colonel to major general in command. Component field commands are the Space Force component to a unified combatant command.[74]
  • Deltas are organized around a specific function, such as operations, training, or installation support and are typically led by a colonel. In rare cases, a delta may be commanded by a higher-ranking officer, such as a major general in the case of Space Launch Delta 45. Deltas are equivalent to an Air Force wing or an Army brigade combat team.
  • Squadrons are focused on specific tactics and are led by a lieutenant colonel.

Each of the three major field commands has a distinctive color which is shared by its subordinate units. Space Operations Command is platinum, Space Systems Command is gold, and Space Training and Readiness Command is Cannes Blue.

Headquarters Space Force

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Organization of the United States Space Force within the Department of Defense

The U.S. Space Force is organized under the Department of the Air Force, alongside the U.S. Air Force. Civilian leadership is provided by the Secretary of the Air Force and under secretary of the Air Force. The most important assistant secretary of the Air Force for the Space Force is the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisition and Integration, who is the only assistant secretary of the Air Force focused entirely on space and serves as the Space Force's service acquisition executive.[75]

Military leadership is provided by the chief of space operations and vice chief of space operations, who are advised by the chief master sergeant of the Space Force.[76][77] Headquarters Space Force, also known as the Office of the Chief of Space Operations or Space Staff, serves as the service's highest staff and headquarters element, is located at the Pentagon. It is led by the chief of space operations and the vice chief of space operations.[78][79]

Title Office Current holder
  Department of the Air Force
  Secretary of the Air Force SecAF Frank Kendall III
  Under Secretary of the Air Force USecAF Melissa Dalton
    Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (Acquisition, Technology and Logistics) SAF/AQ Andrew P. Hunter
    Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (Financial Management & Comptroller) SAF/FM Kristyn E. Jones
    Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (Installations, Environment & Energy) SAF/IE Ravi Chaudhary
  Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (Manpower & Reserve Affairs) SAF/MR Alex Wagner
    Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (Space Acquisition & Integration) SAF/SQ Frank Calvelli
  Headquarters Space Force  
    Chief of space operations CSO Gen B. Chance Saltzman
    Vice chief of space operations VCSO Gen Michael Guetlein
  Chief Master Sergeant of the Space Force CMSSF CMSSF John F. Bentivegna
    Director of staff SF/DS Maj Gen Steven P. Whitney
    Deputy chief of space operations for human capital / Chief Human Capital Officer S1 Katharine Kelley
  Deputy chief of space operations for intelligence S2 Maj Gen Gregory Gagnon
    Deputy chief of space operations for operations, cyber, and nuclear / Chief Operations Officer S3/4/6/7/10 Lt Gen DeAnna M. Burt
    Deputy chief of space operations for strategy, plans, programs, requirements, and analysis / Chief Strategy and Resourcing Officer S5/8 Lt Gen Shawn Bratton
    Deputy chief of space operations for technology and innovation / Chief Technology and Innovation Officer S9 Lisa A. Costa

Field commands, Space Force elements, and direct reporting units

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Name Mission Headquarters
Field commands (FLDCOM)[80]
  Space Operations Command (SpOC) Space Force forces command Peterson Space Force Base, Colorado
  Space Systems Command (SSC) Engineering, acquisitions, and launch command Los Angeles Air Force Base, California
  Space Training and Readiness Command (STARCOM) Space training, test and evaluation, and doctrine development command Peterson Space Force Base, Colorado
Component field commands (C-FLDCOM)[80]
  United States Space Forces – Space (SPACEFOR-SPACE) U.S. Space Command component field command Vandenberg Space Force Base, California
  United States Space Forces Indo-Pacific (SPACEFOR-INDOPAC) U.S. Indo-Pacific Command component field command Joint Base Pearl Harbor–Hickam, Hawai'i
  United States Space Forces Korea (SPACEFOR-KOR)[81] U.S. Forces Korea component field command (subordinated to SPACEFOR-INDOPAC) Osan Air Base, Korea
  United States Space Forces Central (SPACEFOR-CENT) U.S. Central Command component field command MacDill Air Force Base, Florida
  United States Space Forces Europe and Africa (USSPACEFOR-EURAF) U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command component field command Ramstein Air Base, Germany
Space Force elements (SFELM)[82]
  Space Force Element, National Reconnaissance Office (SFELM NRO) National Reconnaissance Office Space Force component[83] Chantilly, Virginia
Direct reporting units (DRU)[82]
  Space Rapid Capabilities Office Expedited research, development and delivery of space capabilities. Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico
  Space Development Agency Employment of the National Defense Space Architecture through commercial research, development and procurement The Pentagon, Washington, D.C.
  Space Warfighting Analysis Center Wargaming, force design Washington, D.C.

Deltas and program executive offices

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Name Function Headquarters
Space Operations Command
  Space Delta 2 Space domain awareness and space battle management[84] Peterson Space Force Base, Colorado
  Space Delta 3 Space electromagnetic warfare Peterson Space Force Base, Colorado
  Space Delta 4 Missile warning Buckley Space Force Base, Colorado
  Space Delta 6 Cyberspace operations Schriever Space Force Base, Colorado
  Space Delta 7 Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance Peterson Space Force Base, Colorado
  Space Delta 8 Satellite communication and navigation warfare Schriever Space Force Base, Colorado
  Space Delta 9 Orbital warfare Schriever Space Force Base, Colorado
  Space Delta 18 National Space Intelligence Center Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio
  Space Base Delta 1 Mission and medical support Peterson Space Force Base, Colorado
  Space Base Delta 2 Mission and medical support Buckley Space Force Base, Colorado
Space Systems Command
  Assured Access to Space Directorate Space mobility and logistics
Military Communications & Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Directorate Military satellite communications and positioning, navigation, and timing acquisition and sustainment
  Space Sensing Directorate Military space sensing acquisition
  Battle Management Command, Control, and Communications Directorate Command and control / Satellite Control Network modernization
  Space Domain Awareness and Combat Power Directorate Space domain awareness and combat power acquisition
  Space Launch Delta 30 Space launch, Western Range administration, and mission and medical support Vandenberg Space Force Base, California
  Space Launch Delta 45 Space launch, Eastern Range administration, and mission and medical support Patrick Space Force Base, Florida
  Space Base Delta 3 Mission and medical support Los Angeles Air Force Base, California
Space Training and Readiness Command
  Space Delta 1 Space training Vandenberg Space Force Base, California
  Space Delta 10 Space doctrine and wargaming United States Air Force Academy, Colorado
  Space Delta 11 Space range and aggressor Schriever Space Force Base, Colorado
  Space Delta 12 Space test and evaluation Schriever Space Force Base, Colorado
  Space Delta 13 Space education Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama
United States Space Forces – Space
  Space Delta 5 Combined Space Operations Center Vandenberg Space Force Base, California
  Space Delta 15 National Space Defense Center Schriever Space Force Base, Colorado

Relationships with other space organizations

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Department of the Air Force and U.S. Air Force

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The U.S. Space Force derives a significant degree of support from the Department of the Air Force and the U.S. Air Force. The Space Force proper consists only of operators and acquisitions, relying on the Air Force to provide airmen in support or other niche specialties. Air Force Materiel Command provides major command support to airmen assigned to the Space Force. The Space Force and Air Force continue to share a number of different organizations, such as the United States Air Force Academy and Air Force Research Laboratory.[85]

 
The Air Force Research Laboratory's Starfire Optical Range, used for real-time high-fidelity tracking and imaging of satellites

Following the United States Space Force's establishment, calls have been made for the Department of the Air Force to rename itself the Department of the Air and Space Forces to acknowledge the Space Force, similar to calls made for the Department of the Navy to rename itself the Department of the Navy and Marine Corps. SpaceNews reported that a proposed name change was considered in 2018 and in 2019 the Air Force Association also called for renaming the department.[86][87] In 2022, the Air Force Association renamed itself the Air & Space Forces Association, internally acting on its proposal to reflect the Space Force in the organization's name.[88] In a 2021 article in the Space Force Journal, two Space Force officers also proposed a name change for the department.[89]

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

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The U.S. Space Force and NASA have a history of cooperation, as the lead government agencies for military and civil spaceflight. The Space Force's predecessors in the Air Force, Navy, and Army provided NASA with its early space launch vehicles and most of its astronauts.[19]

 
 
The Space Force's first two astronauts, Colonel Michael S. Hopkins (left) and Colonel Nick Hague (right)

The Space Force hosts NASA launch operations at Vandenberg Space Force Base and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.[90][91] NASA occasionally hosts U.S. Space Force heavy launches out of Kennedy Space Center.[92] The Space Force continues to support NASA's human spaceflight missions with range support of Space Launch Delta 45 and tracks threats to the International Space Station and other crewed spacecraft.[93][94]

The Space Force and NASA partner on matters such as space domain awareness and planetary defense.[95] Space Force members can be NASA astronauts, with Colonel Michael S. Hopkins, the commander of SpaceX Crew-1, commissioned into the Space Force from the International Space Station on 18 December 2020.[61][62][63]

National Reconnaissance Office

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The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) is a Department of Defense agency and a member of the United States Intelligence Community, responsible for designing, building, launching, and maintaining intelligence satellites.[96] The Space Force executes National Reconnaissance Office space launches and consists of 40% of the agency's personnel.[97][98][99] Proposals have been put forward, including by the Air Force Association and retired Air Force Lieutenant General David Deptula, to merge the NRO into the Space Force, transforming it into a Space Force Intelligence, Reconnaissance, and Surveillance Command and consolidating the entire national security space apparatus in the Space Force.[100][101][102]

 
Launch of the NROL-44 mission from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station

The USSF's Space Systems Command (SSC), in partnership with the National Reconnaissance Office, manages the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) program, which uses government and contract spacecraft to launch sensitive government payloads.[103][104] NSSL supports both the USSF and NRO.[104] NRO director Scolese has characterized his agency as critical to American space dominance and the Space Force, stating that NRO provides "unrivaled situational awareness and intelligence to the best imagery and signals data on the planet."[103] Additionally, in August 2021, former NRO deputy director Lt Gen Michael Guetlein became commander of Space Systems Command.[105]

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

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The Space Force and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) jointly operate the military's weather satellites.[106] Additionally, NOAA's Office of Space Commerce is responsible for civilian space situational awareness and space traffic management.[107]

The decision to transition space traffic management from the military to the Department of Commerce was made due to the significant growth in commercial spacecraft and to mirror how the Federal Aviation Administration, rather than the U.S. Air Force, handles air traffic management.[108]

Personnel and culture

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Symbols

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The Delta Symbol

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The Delta Symbol - An Origin Story

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, scientists derived the rocket equation, which made spaceflight possible. In this equation,   represents the change in velocity. Since the 20th century, the Delta has been used to represent a stylized aircraft, missile, or arrow. In 1940, the United States Army Air Forces 36th Fighter Group used the delta on its shield, which is still used by the U.S. Air Force 36th Fighter Wing.[109]

After World War II, the delta began to be used by the space program, appearing on the joint U.S. Air Force-NASA X-15. In 1962, the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division became the first of a long line of international military space organizations to use the delta, which, in the Air Force Space Command shield represented the Air Force's upward thrust into space and the launch vehicles used to place satellites into orbit. This delta later evolved into the U.S. Space Force's seal and its logo in 2020, becoming the basic shape for field command and delta emblems.[109]

Guardians

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A Space Force specialist with the 4th Space Operations Squadron performing an armed security detail

Space Force service members have the title of Guardians, similar to how members of the U.S. Marine Corps are called Marines and members of the Air Force are called Airmen. The title of guardian traces its heritage to Air Force Space Command's 1983 motto Guardians of the High Frontier.[110] Prior to the announcement of Guardian as the service title on 18 December 2020, members of the Space Force were referred to as space professionals.[111]

Semper Supra

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The Space Force's motto, Semper Supra – "Always Above".[112] It mirrors the mottos of the Marine Corps (Semper Fidelis – Always Faithful) and Coast Guard (Semper Paratus – Always Ready).[113][114] The Space Force's service song takes its name from the motto.[115]

Specialties and badges

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Space Operations
 

Intelligence
 

Cyberspace Operations
 

Acquisition and engineering
Officer
  • 13A – Astronaut
  • 13S – Space Operations Officer
  • 17S – Cyberspace Effects Operations Officer
Enlisted
  • 5S – Space Systems Operator
  • 5C – Cyberspace Operations

Space operators are the largest career field in the Space Force and comprise much of its senior leadership.[116] Space operations officers are responsible for leading the Space Force's space operations forces. Space operations officers (13S) are responsible for planning and leading space combat operations across orbital warfare, space electromagnetic warfare, space battle management, and space access and sustainment spacepower disciplines. They also formulate space operations policy, coordinate space operations, and plan, organize, and direct space operations programs.[117][118] Enlisted Space Systems Operators (5S) are responsible for conducting orbital warfare, space electromagnetic warfare, space battle management, and space access and sustainment operations.[119][120] Space operations officers and enlisted space systems operators are awarded the Space Operations Badge after completing the 533rd Training Squadron's Undergraduate Space Training program at Vandenberg Space Force Base, with follow-on education provided by the 319th Combat Training Squadron and National Security Space Institute.[121]

 
Senior observer badge with the astronaut device as awarded to Space Force astronauts

The Space Force currently has two astronauts (13A) who flew as Space Force officers on assignment to NASA. Space Force astronauts command, operate, and pilot crewed spacecraft, accomplish on-orbit duties on the International Space Station or other spacecraft, operate Department of Defense payloads, and provide spaceflight consultation to the Department of Defense and other government agencies. Space Force astronauts must complete NASA Astronaut Candidate (ASCAN) training at Johnson Space Center. Once completing a spaceflight, Space Force astronauts are awarded the observer badge with astronaut rating.[118]

Intelligence officers (14N) lead the Space Force's intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance enterprise, performing intelligence activities and analysis.[122] They lead enlisted All Source Intelligence Analysts (5I0), Geospatial Intelligence Analysts (5I1), Signals Intelligence Analysts (5I2), and Fusion Analysts (5I4), and Targeting Analysts (5I8).[123][124][125][126][127][120] Intelligence officers and enlisted analysts are awarded their intelligence badge after completing intelligence training with the 533rd Training Squadron Detachment 1 at Goodfellow Air Force Base, with follow-on education provided by the 319th Combat Training Squadron and National Security Space Institute.[128]

 
Colonel Michael S. Hopkins became the U.S. Space Force's first astronaut when he transferred from the U.S. Air Force on the International Space Station on 18 December 2020

Cyberspace effects operations officers (17S) are responsible for operating cyberspace weapons systems, satellite communications systems, and commanding cyber crews.[118] They lead enlisted Cyberspace Operations guardians.[129] Cyberspace effects operations officers and enlisted cyberspace operators are awarded the cyberspace operator badge after completing Undergraduate Cyber Training with the Air Force's 81st Training Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, with follow-on education provided by the 319th Combat Training Squadron and National Security Space Institute.[130]

Acquisition and engineering are officer only career fields within the Space Force. Specific developmental engineers (62E) include aeronautical engineers (62EXA), astronautical engineers (62EXB), computer systems engineers (62EXC), electrical/electronic engineer (62EXE), mechanical engineer (62EXH) and the human factors engineer/human systems integration (62EXI). Space Force engineers graduate from the Defense Acquisition University and the U.S. Air Force Flight Test Engineer course, or a comparable program.[131][132][133][134][135][136] Acquisition managers (63A) are responsible for the Space Force's acquisition process.[137]

Spacepower disciplines

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Members of the 4th Space Operations Squadron Mobile Operations Flight conducting armed convoy operations

The U.S. Space Force has seven core spacepower disciplines which its personnel gain experience in:[11]

  1. Orbital Warfare: Knowledge of orbital maneuver as well as offensive and defensive fires to preserve freedom of access to the domain. Skill to ensure United States and coalition space forces can continue to provide capability to the Joint Force while denying that same advantage to the adversary.
  2. Space Electromagnetic Warfare: Knowledge of spectrum awareness, maneuver within the spectrum, and non-kinetic fires within the spectrum to deny adversary use of vital links. Skill to manipulate physical access to communication pathways and awareness of how those pathways contribute to enemy advantage.
  3. Space Battle Management: Knowledge of how to orient to the space domain and skill in making decisions to preserve mission, deny adversary access, and ultimately ensure mission accomplishment. Ability to identify hostile actions and entities, conduct combat identification, target, and direct action in response to an evolving threat environment.
  4. Space Access and Sustainment: Knowledge of processes, support, and logistics required to maintain and prolong operations in the space domain. Ability to resource, apply, and leverage spacepower in, from, and to the space domain.
  5. Military Intelligence: Knowledge to conduct intelligence-led, threat-focused operations based on the insights. Ability to leverage the broader Intelligence Community to ensure military spacepower has the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities needed to defend the space domain.
  6. Engineering and Acquisition: Knowledge that ensures military spacepower has the best capabilities in the world to defend the space domain. Ability to form science, technology, and acquisition partnerships with other national security space organizations, commercial entities, Allies, and academia to ensure the warfighters are properly equipped.
  7. Cyber Operations: Knowledge to defend the global networks upon which military spacepower is vitally dependent. Ability to employ cyber security and cyber defense of critical space networks and systems. Skill to employ future offensive capabilities.

Rank structure

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Officers

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Officer service cap badge
 
The first 86 Space Force lieutenants being commissioned from the United States Air Force Academy on 18 April 2020.

Officers are the leaders of the U.S. Space Force and are responsible for planning operations and managing personnel. Space Force officers enter the service through three different paths: graduating from the United States Air Force Academy, Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps, or Air Force Officer Training School.[138]

The premier commissioning route for Space Force officers is through the U.S. Air Force Academy, a public university and military academy. Approximately ~10% of each class commissions as U.S. Space Force officers, with the remainder entering into the U.S. Air Force.[139] Space Delta 13, Detachment 1 is responsible for providing Space Force training, immersion, and mentorship to cadets. The Air Force Academy has a long history with Air Force space, establishing the world's first Department of Astronautics in 1958 and the Cadet Space Operations Squadron, which operates the FalconSAT satellites, in 1997.[140][141][142][143] Additional space programs, such as the Azimuth program, i5 Squadron and Blue Horizon rocketry club have stood up and as of 2023, the Air Force Academy offers two space majors, a space warfighting minor, and 29 space courses across all its academic departments.[144] On 18 April 2020, the Air Force Academy commissioned 86 officers into the Space Force, becoming the first group of individuals to enter the service after the first chief of space operations, General Jay Raymond, and the senior enlisted advisor of the Space Force, Chief Master Sergeant Roger Towberman.[145]

 
The United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, considered the premier commissioning source for Space Force officers.

The Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps program is offered at 1,100 colleges and universities. Like the Air Force Academy, it commissions officers directly into either the Air Force or Space Force.[146] The Air Force Officer Training School is the final path to commission into the Space Force, graduating its first two Space Force officers on 16 October 2020 and its first all-Space Force flight graduating on 17 March 2023.[147][148]

The Space Force partners with Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies to provide Intermediate Developmental Education and Senior Developmental Education.[149] Additional educational opportunities for officers include the 319th Combat Training Squadron, National Security Space Institute, Air Force Institute of Technology, U.S. Air Force Weapons School, the Acquisition Instructor Course, U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, the Space Test Course, and Air University's School of Advanced Air and Space Studies.[150][151][152][153][154]

US DoD
pay grade
O-10 O-9 O-8 O-7 O-6 O-5 O-4 O-3 O-2 O-1 Officer candidate
NATO code OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D)
Insignia                     Various insignia
Service dress uniform (Class A)                      
Service uniform (Class B)                    
Mess dress uniform                    
OCP uniform                    
Title General Lieutenant general Major general Brigadier general Colonel Lieutenant colonel Major Captain First lieutenant Second lieutenant Cadet / Officer trainee
Abbreviation Gen Lt Gen Maj Gen Brig Gen Col Lt Col Maj Capt 1st Lt 2d Lt Cdt / OT

Enlisted

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Enlisted service cap badge.

Enlisted members participate in and support operations. Space Force enlisted members complete Basic Military Training at Joint Base San Antonio. Space Force Basic Military Training is identical to Air Force Basic Military Training, with the addition of Space Force-specific curriculum.[155] On 20 October 2020, the first four individuals enlisted into the Space Force and on 10 December 2020, the first seven enlisted members to enter the Space Force graduated from Basic Military Training.[156][157] In May 2022, the Space Force started running its own all-Guardian Basic Military Training to reinforce Space Force culture.[158]

Space Force enlisted members are enrolled in the Community College of the Air Force, earning an associate in applied science degree.[159] Professional military education is conducted at Space Training and Readiness Command's Forrest L. Vosler Non-Commissioned Officer Academy.[160] Other educational opportunities for enlisted members include the 319th Combat Training Squadron, National Security Space Institute, Advanced Instructor Course and the Space Test Course.[161][154]

 
Chief Master Sergeant of the Space Force service cap badge.

The Space Force's enlisted rank design is centered on a hexagon, representing the Space Force's status as the sixth military service in the Armed Forces. The horizontal stripes for Specialist 2, 3, and 4 were inspired by an early proposal for Air Force enlisted ranks known as "Vandenberg stripes". The delta represents the Space Force. The specialist stripes represent terra firma, the solid foundation of skills upon which the Space Force is built. Noncommissioned officer insignia feature traditional chevrons and the "Delta, Globe, and Orbit," representing the totality of the Space Force. Finally, senior noncommissioned officer insignia are topped with "orbital chevrons", representing low Earth orbit for master sergeants, medium Earth orbit for senior master sergeants, and geosynchronous orbit for chief master sergeants. These orbital chevrons signify the higher levels of responsibility and willingness to explore and innovate placed upon senior noncommissioned officers. Finally, the Chief Master Sergeant of the Space Force is represented by a "Delta, Globe, and Orbit" in a hexagonal wreath.[162]

US DoD pay grade Special E-9 E-8 E-7 E-6 E-5 E-4 E-3 E-2 E-1
NATO code OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
Insignia                      
Title Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman Chief Master Sergeant of the Space Force Chief master sergeant Senior master sergeant Master sergeant Technical sergeant Sergeant Specialist 4 Specialist 3 Specialist 2 Specialist 1
Abbreviation SEAC CMSSF CMSgt SMSgt MSgt TSgt Sgt Spc4 Spc3 Spc2 Spc1

Uniforms

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Air Force Mess Dress Uniform (interim) Service Dress Uniform
Class "A"
Service Uniform
Class "B"
Air Force Service Dress Uniform (interim) OCP Uniform Physical Training Uniform
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Space Force insignia worn on Air Force uniforms

The Space Force is currently in the process of developing its unique mess dress, service dress, and physical training uniforms.[163] In the interim period, guardians wear the Air Force Mess Dress, Air Force Service Dress, and Air Force Service uniforms with the following modifications:[164]

  • Space Force insignia on the coat/shirt
  • Replaced "Hap Arnold Star & Wings" buttons with "Delta, Globe, & Orbit" buttons
  • Replaced Air Force Great Seal of the United States service cap badges with Space Force Delta, Globe, and Orbit service cap badges
  • Replaced Air Force nametag with Space Force hexagonal nametag
  • Space Force enlisted rank worn in place of Air Force enlisted ranks (enlisted only)
  • Replaced Circle U.S. lapel insignia with Hexagonal U.S. insignia (enlisted only)

The primary Space Force uniform is the OCP Uniform, adopted from the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Army. The Space Force uses unique "space blue" thread for ranks and badges, wears a full color flag on the left sleeve, and wears full color patches.[165]

 
Space Force cadets in Air Force Academy parade dress with their platinum sashes

The Space Force's distinctive blue and gray service dress uniform was unveiled at the Air & Space Forces Association's 2021 Air, Space, and Cyber conference. The dark blue was taken from the Space Force's seal and represents the vastness of outer space, while the six buttons represent that the U.S. Space Force is the sixth armed service.[166] The Space Force's Physical Training Uniform was unveiled in September 2021. As of April 2023, the Space Force stated that the Physical Training Uniform would be available by early 2024 and that the Service Dress Uniform would be available by late 2025.[167]

Space Force cadets at the Air Force Academy wear the same uniform as Air Force cadets; however, in their distinctive blue and white parade dress uniforms they wear a platinum sash in place of the gold sash worn by Air Force cadets.[168]

Awards and decorations

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Ribbons for the proposed Guardian of the Year Ribbon.

As part of the United States Department of the Air Force, the United States Space Force and United States Air Force share the same awards and decorations or same variations of awards and decorations.[169]

On 16 November 2020, the Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall III renamed the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Air Force Achievement Medal, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, Air Force Organizational Excellence Award, Air Force Recognition Ribbon, Air Force Overseas Ribbons, Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon, Air Force Longevity Service Award, and the Air Force Training Ribbon to replace "Air Force" with "Air and Space" to include the Space Force. He also eliminated Air Force from the Air Force Combat Action Medal and renamed the Air Force Special Duty Ribbon to the Developmental Special Duty Ribbon.[170]

The Space Force is currently in the process of developing a Space Force Good Conduct Medal to replace the Air Force Good Conduct Medal for enlisted members which was approved on 30 August 2023.[171][172] Congress has also debated changing the Airman's Medal, awarded for non-combat heroism, to the Air and Space Force Medal, mirroring the Navy and Marine Corps Medal.[173]

Devices
Arctic "A" Device Arrowhead Device Combat "C" Device Oak leaf cluster Remote "R" Device Service Star Valor "V" Device
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Decorations

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Unit awards

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Presidential Unit Citation Gallant Unit Citation Meritorious Unit Award Air and Space Outstanding Unit Award Air and Space Organizational Excellence Award
 
 
 
 
 

Campaign, expeditionary, and service awards

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Locations

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Continental United States

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Installations and locations in the contiguous United States.

class=notpageimage|
U.S. Space Force installations and locations located within mainland United States.
U.S. Space Force installations and locations within the contiguous United States
Name Location State Space Base/Launch Delta or primary unit emblem Space Base/Launch Deta or primary unit Major units
Buckley Space Force Base Aurora Colorado
 
Space Base Delta 2
Peterson Space Force Base Colorado Springs Colorado
 
Space Base Delta 1
Schriever Space Force Base Colorado Springs Colorado
 
Space Base Delta 1
Los Angeles Air Force Base El Segundo California
 
Space Base Delta 3 Space Systems Command
Patrick Space Force Base Satellite Beach Florida
 
Space Launch Delta 45 Air Force Technical Applications Center
Vandenberg Space Force Base Lompoc California
 
Space Launch Delta 30
Cape Canaveral Space Force Station Cape Canaveral Florida
 
Space Launch Delta 45
Cheyenne Mountain Space Force Station Cheyenne Mountain Colorado
 
Space Base Delta 1
Cape Cod Space Force Station Sagamore Massachusetts
 
6th Space Warning Squadron
Cavalier Space Force Station Cavalier North Dakota
 
10th Space Warning Squadron
New Boston Space Force Station Hillsborough County New Hampshire
 
23rd Space Operations Squadron

Overseas

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class=notpageimage|
U.S. Space Force installations and locations outside of the contiguous United States.
U.S. Space Force installations and locations outside of the contiguous United States
Name Location Space Base Delta or primary unit emblem Space Base Delta or primary unit Major units
Clear Space Force Station   United States (Alaska)
 
13th Space Warning Squadron
Kaena Point Space Force Station   United States (Hawaii)
 
21st Space Operations Squadron (Detachment 3)
Maui Space Surveillance Complex   United States (Hawaii)
 
15th Space Surveillance Squadron[174]
Pituffik Space Base   Greenland
 
821st Space Base Group 12th Space Warning Squadron

Spacecraft and space systems

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Spacecraft

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U.S. Space Force spacecraft
Name Spacecraft image Mission Operator Number
Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF)
 
Satellite communications Space Delta 8[175] 6[116]
Advanced Technology Risk Reduction (ATRR)
 
Space surveillance[176] Space Delta 9[177] 1[116]
Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP)
 
Environmental monitoring Space Delta 2[178] 4[116]
Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS)
 
Satellite communications Space Delta 8[175] 6[116]
Defense Support Program (DSP)
 
Missile warning[179] Space Delta 4
Electro-optical/Infrared Weather System – Geosynchronous (EWS-G)[180]
 
Environmental monitoring Space Delta 2[178]
Fleet Satellite Communications System (FLTSAT)
 
Satellite communications Space Delta 8
Global Positioning System (GPS)
 
Positioning, navigation, and timing PNT IMD (P) 32[116]
Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP)
 
Space surveillance[181] Space Delta 9[177] 6[116]
Milstar
 
Satellite communications Space Delta 8[175] 5[116]
Mobile User Objective System (MUOS)
 
Satellite communications Space Delta 8
Operationally Responsive Space-5 (ORS-5)
 
Space surveillance[182] Space Delta 9[177] 1[116]
Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS)
 
Missile warning
Missile defense
Battlespace awareness
Technical intelligence[183]
Space Delta 4 7[116]
Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS)
 
Space surveillance Space Delta 9[177] 1[116]
Ultra High Frequency Follow-On (UFO)
 
Satellite communications Space Delta 8
Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS)
 
Satellite communications Space Delta 8[175] 10[116]
X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle
 
Orbital test spaceplane Space Delta 9[177] 2[184]

Space systems

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U.S. Space Force space systems
Name Space system image Mission Operator
AN/FPS-85
 
Space surveillance Space Delta 2
C-Band Space Surveillance Radar System[185]
 
Space surveillance Space Delta 2
Cobra Dane
 
Missile defense
Space surveillance[186]
Space Delta 4
Ground-Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance (GEODSS)
 
Space surveillance Space Delta 2[178]
Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR)
 
Missile defense
Space surveillance[187]
Space Delta 4[188]
Perimeter Acquisition Radar Attack Characterization System (PARCS)
 
Missile warning
Space surveillance[189]
Space Delta 4
Satellite Control Network (SCN)
 
Ground station Space Delta 6
Space Fence
 
Space surveillance Space Delta 2
Space Surveillance Telescope[178]
 
Space surveillance Space Delta 2
Upgraded Early Warning Radar (UEWR)
 
Missile warning
Missile defense
Space surveillance[190]
Space Delta 4

Space launch vehicles

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Modernization and budget

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United States Space Force Budget 2020[191] 2021[192] 2022[193] 2023 (Enacted)[194] 2024
Operation & Maintenance $40,000,000 $2,492,114,000 $3,611,012,000 $4,086,883,000 TBA
Procurement $2,310,994,000 $2,787,354,000 $4,462,188,000 $3,752,194,000
Research, Development, Test & Evaluation $10,540,069,000 $11,794,566,000 $16,631,377,000 $19,551,449,000
Military Personnel $1,109,400,000 TBA
Total $40,000,000 $15,343,177,000 $18,192,932,000 $26,289,848,000 TBA
 
NASA's return to the Moon through the Artemis program is leading to a greater emphasis on cislunar domain awareness
 
Concept for a space-based solar power spacecraft

While a new service, the U.S. Space Force is undergoing intensive modernization efforts. The Deep Space Advanced Radar Capability (DARC) is intended to track objects in geosynchronous orbit with three sites, one in the United States, one in the Indo-Pacific, and one in Europe.[195]

Oracle, a spacecraft developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory for the Space Force, will demonstrate technologies that the space service needs for cislunar domain awareness – tracking objects outside of geosynchronous orbit and between Earth and the Moon. The spacecraft itself will launch to an area of gravitational stability between the Earth and the Moon to conduct operations, using a wide-field sensor and a more sensitive narrow field sensor to discover and maintain custody of objects operating in this region. Oracle will directly support NASA's Artemis program as it returns to the Moon and track potentially hazardous near-Earth objects in support of planetary defense operations.[196]

Also an Air Force Research Laboratory program for the Space Force, Arachne is the keystone experiment in the Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstrations and Research Project, which aims to prove and mature essential technologies for a prototype space-based solar power transmission system capable of powering a forward operating base. Arachne will specifically demonstrate and mature technologies related to more efficient energy generation, radio frequency forming, and radio frequency beam beaming. Current forward operation bases rely on significant logistics convoys to transport fuel for power – space-based solar power would move these supply lines to space, where they are unable to be easily attacked. Much how GPS started as a military program and was opened to civilian use, Space Force provided space-based solar power could transition to common use as well.[197] Other space-based power beaming demonstrators include the Space Power InfraRed Regulation and Analysis of Lifetime (SPIRRAL) and Space Power INcremental DepLoyable Experiment (SPINDLE) experiments.[198]

 
SpaceX's Starship, a contender for the Rocket Cargo program

The Navigation Technology Satellite-3 (NTS-3), building on the Space Force's Global Positioning System constellation, is an Air Force Research Laboratory spacecraft that will operate in geosynchronous orbit to test advanced techniques and technologies to detect and mitigate interference to positioning, navigation, and timing capabilities and increase system resiliency for military, civil, and commercial users. NTS-3 is a Vanguard program, which mark potentially game changing technologies.[199]

The Space Force's Rocket Cargo program is another Air Force Research Laboratory Vanguard program, which is focused on leasing space launch services to quickly transport military materiel to ports across the globe. If proven viable, the Space Force's Space Systems Command is responsible for transitioning it to a program of record. United States Transportation Command would be the primary user of this capability, rapidly launching up to 100 tons of cargo anywhere in the world.[200]

Public image and reception

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Despite the increasing military threats in space and the reorganization of the Russian Space Forces and the People's Liberation Army Strategic Support Force, the U.S. Space Force has had significant challenges with its public image.[201][202]

One major challenge was perceived ties to former President Donald Trump who in 2018 supported the proposal, falsely claiming "nobody even thought about the Space Force" before him. The Space Force was accused of being a "vanity project" for President Trump, despite the concept being debated since the 1990s as a means to counter Chinese and Russian military threats in space and most recently being proposed by representatives Jim Cooper and Mike Rogers in 2017.[203] The idea of the Space Force was popular with supporters of former President Donald Trump, and his presidential campaign sold unofficial Space Force merchandise – a practice he has been criticized for.[204] The creation of the Space Force, signed into law by Trump, resulted in some jokes, memes, and controversies online.[204][205] Late night talk show hosts such as Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert joked about the idea and a Netflix comedy show, Space Force, has a plot involving the establishment of a United States Space Force – finding humor in Trump's involvement, but also addressing the threats that the real Space Force exists to deal with.[206][207] Following the end of the Trump administration and the Biden administration's announcement that they were not reevaluating its establishment, less critical and more analytical coverage of the Space Force has arisen. High-ranking military officers and commentators interviewed by Politico in a February 2021 article agreed that President Trump's influence and image were in part the cause for the negative reception of the Space Force, and that improving its public image would take time.[208][209]

A second challenge was highlighted in the January 2021 article in the Space Force Journal by Wendy Whitman Cobb, an Air University professor, who blamed the generally derisive and inaccurate public perception of the Space Force to the influence of science fiction and pop culture, claiming that "modern pop culture depictions of the Space Force as a joke are distracting from the serious responsibilities the USSF is taking on."[210] The Space Force's permanent adoption of its inherited camouflage OCP uniform, which is also used by the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army, sparked jokes about fighting on the forest moon of Endor from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and its service dress uniform was compared to the Colonial Fleet uniforms from Battlestar Galactica or Starfleet uniforms from Star Trek.[211][212][213] The Space Force's delta insignia, first adopted as a space symbol by the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division's in 1962, was compared to the Starfleet logo from Star Trek, which first aired on television in 1966.[214] In 2020, William Shatner, who portrayed James T. Kirk on Star Trek, stated that Starfleet's logo was an homage to the Space Force's direct predecessors in military space operations.[214]

See also

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References

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  1. ^ a b Air Force, U.S. (18 January 2023). "Department of the Air Force FY 2023 Budget Overview" (PDF). U.S. Air Force. Archived (PDF) from the original on 11 March 2023. Retrieved 11 March 2023.
  2. ^ "2021 USAF & USSF Almanac: Personnel". Air Force Magazine. 30 June 2021. Archived from the original on 13 August 2021. Retrieved 17 August 2021.
  3. ^ "U.S. Space Force brochure" (PDF). www.airforcemag.com. Archived (PDF) from the original on 27 October 2020. Retrieved 22 September 2020.
  4. ^ "U.S. Space Force Fact Sheet". Spaceforce.mil. United States Space Force. 20 December 2019. Archived from the original on 16 January 2020. Retrieved 21 December 2019.
  5. ^ "The U.S. Space Force logo and motto". United States Space Force. 22 July 2020. Archived from the original on 22 July 2020. Retrieved 22 July 2020.
  6. ^ "Space Force reveals official song: "Semper Supra"". United States Space Force. 20 September 2022. Archived from the original on 14 October 2022. Retrieved 20 September 2022.
  7. ^ a b Dudney, Robert S. (1 June 2003). "Space Power in the Gulf". Air & Space Forces Magazine. Archived from the original on 29 April 2023. Retrieved 29 April 2023.
  8. ^ "Fact Sheet". United States Space Force. Archived from the original on 16 January 2020. Retrieved 27 January 2020.
  9. ^ Erwin, Sandra (12 December 2019). "Space Force proponents in Congress warn Air Force: 'We will watch you like a hawk'". SpaceNews. Retrieved 19 July 2023.
  10. ^ https://www.esd.whs.mil/portals/54/documents/dd/issuances/dodd/510001p.pdf Archived 26 March 2023 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ a b c Wright, Ashley M. (10 August 2020). "Space Force releases 1st doctrine, defines "spacepower" as distinct form of military power". United States Space Force. Archived from the original on 27 February 2021. Retrieved 3 February 2021.
  12. ^ Spires 1998, pp. 21–24.
  13. ^ Neufeld 1990, pp. 107–108.
  14. ^ Spires 1998, pp. 33–34.
  15. ^ a b "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 7 April 2023. Retrieved 30 May 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h Spires 1998.
  17. ^ "Navy satellite center disestablished; U.S. Space Force assumes command". Archived from the original on 30 May 2023. Retrieved 30 May 2023.
  18. ^ JFK Library, Address at Rice University, September 12, 1962 (USG 15 29) on YouTube, Houston, Texas, concerning the nation's efforts in space exploration, minutes 7:16–8:00.
  19. ^ a b "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 27 October 2020. Retrieved 19 January 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  20. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 7 April 2023. Retrieved 30 May 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  21. ^ a b "From the Sea to the Stars". Archived from the original on 30 May 2023. Retrieved 30 May 2023.
  22. ^ "Vought ASM-135A Anti-Satellite Missile". Archived from the original on 30 May 2023. Retrieved 30 May 2023.
  23. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 21 December 2019. Retrieved 21 December 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  24. ^ "SMDC History: 25 years since first 'Space War'". 20 January 2016. Archived from the original on 20 November 2021. Retrieved 20 November 2021.
  25. ^ "High Frontier" (PDF). Air Force Space Command. Retrieved 9 September 2023.
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Further reading

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  • Hardwick, C. Stuart, ed. (2024). Tales of the United States Space Force. Riverdale, NY: Baen Books. ISBN 978-1-9821-9345-4. OCLC 1405189278. Anthology of fiction and nonfiction about the U.S. Space Force.
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  • Official website