Donald Trump Wants a ‘Space Force,’ But What Is It?

President Trump signed an executive order to establish the Space Force

President Trump signs an executive order to establish the Space Force | Alex Wong/Getty Images

Donald Trump directed the Department of Defense and the Pentagon to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the Armed Forces in a meeting with the National Space Council. “We are going to have the Air Force and we’re going to have the Space Force, separate but equal. It is going to be something, so important,” Trump said.

The announcement came as a surprise. But Trump first floated the idea of a Space Force in March 2018, despite the opposition of Jim Mattis to the idea of creating a new branch of the military.

What would establishing a Space Force entail? Read on for the details.

The Space is ‘like the Army and the Navy, but for space’

As Vox reported in March 2018, American troops currently serve in hundreds of countries around the world. They could begin serving in space if the new branch of the military becomes a reality. In March, Trump characterized the Space Force, “It’s like the Army and the Navy, but for space, because we’re spending a lot of money on space.” The Space Force would be its own military service, and part of the Department of the Air Force (in the same way that the Marine Corps is part of the Department of the Navy).

The Space Force would take over some tasks from the Air Force

Air Force jets flying in formation

Air Force | Aneese/iStock/Getty Images

Trump’s Space Force would take over some of the tasks currently performed by the Air Force, Vox explains. The Air Force currently helps with projects such as spacelift operations and the command and control of satellites. The Space Force would absorb those missions. The Space Force would also get a new four-star general who would become the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s eighth member. The only problem? The Air Force is against the plan, and thinks that creating the Space Force would make the Pentagon too complicated.

Republicans think the Space Force is necessary for national security

Michael Rogers, Director of the National Security Agency

Michael Rogers | Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Vox reports that Rep. Mike Rogers, the Space Force’s main champion in Congress, thinks the new branch of the military is necessary for national security. Citing concerns about Russia and China and their progress toward catching up to America’s power in space, Rogers said, “They’re close to surpassing us. What we’re proposing would change that.” As NPR reports, creating the Space Force would mean establishing the first new military branch in decades. The newest branch, the Air Force, was established in 1947.

Space could become the front line in a future conflict

Army, Navy And Air Force Secretaries Discuss National Security In Washington

Deborah Lee James | Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Defense Department foresees a future in which space could become the front line in a conflict, according to Vox. “Space is no longer a peaceful domain,” Deborah Lee James, the last Air Force secretary, said in 2017. “There is a real possibility that a conflict on Earth could bleed into space.” Russia, China, and the U.S. all have a large amount of military equipment in space, especially satellites. Those satellites help navigate terrain, communicate, track enemy fighters, take pictures for intelligence services, and even control missiles. Without space, it would be much harder to fight on earth.

The Space Force would monitor space equipment

Satellite orbiting Earth

Satellite | cristimatei/iStock/Getty Images

Military technology isn’t the only kind of equipment in space. Companies have put huge numbers of satellites and other communications devices into orbit around Earth since the 1960s (and you use those devices every time you text a friend or use your phone to navigate to an unfamiliar destination). Equipment could be hacked, or even damaged by debris orbiting the earth. The Space Force could monitor physical and cyber threats against U.S. communication and navigation assets.

What happens in space affects the Army, Air Force, and Navy

House Armed Services Committee Holds Hearing On Military Cyber Security

House Armed Services Committee | Drew Angerer/Getty Images

As NPR reports, much of what happens in space directly affects personnel in the Army, the Air Force, the Navy, and other parts of the U.S. Armed Forces. The U.S. Air Force’s Space Command — which employs 36,000 people at more than 130 sites around the world — operates GPS, weather, and communications satellites. Space Command currently tracks objects in space and stays on top of what other countries are doing in space, which affects what the armed forces do on earth.

The idea of a Space Force dates back to the Cold War

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld waves from outside the White House

Donald Rumsfeld | Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

Donald Trump isn’t the first to float the idea of a Space Force, according to NPR. The idea dates back to the Cold War, and gained renewed traction in 2000, when Donald Rumsfeld proposed creating a space corps in a military reform commission report. However, any plans to establish a Space Force were soon derailed by the September 11 attacks in 2001, and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Read more: Science Fact or Fiction? 10 Space Myths From Movies and TV

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