Space Command is finally lifting off.
On August 29, Vice President Mike Pence will inaugurate the U.S. military's newest combatant command — which will be temporarily, and possibly permanently, based in Colorado — in a ceremony at the White House. Part of the inauguration will include the immediate assignment of 87 Space Command units under the direction of General John Raymond, who currently serves as the commander of Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, a role he will continue as he transitions to his new position.
"When General Raymond assumes command, he’s going to bring together capabilities that include missile warning, satellite operations, space control and space support," Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a National Space Council meeting in Virginia on the morning of August 20.
When inaugurated, Space Command will become the eleventh American combatant command, which combine multiple branches of the military to focus on one strategic issue, like cyber safety, or on geographical areas.
The Trump administration has not yet announced a final home base for Space Command, but it will be at least temporarily headquartered at Peterson AFB. Approximately 260 personnel will initially serve in Space Command, according to Lieutenant Colonel Christina Hoggatt, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Air Force. Hoggatt says that a more "pomp and circumstance type ceremony" to welcome Space Command will be held in Colorado Springs sometime in September.
Since Pence announced Space Command in December 2018, the list of possible locations for its headquarters has been winnowed down to just six bases, four of which are located in Colorado. Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and Redstone Arsenal in Alabama are also finalists.
Senators Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet and Governor Jared Polis have been lobbying the Trump administration to choose a local base as the headquarters. The previous iteration of Space Command, formed in 1985, was located in Colorado Springs until 2002. In the aftermath of 9/11, the U.S. shifted its focus toward homeland security and foreign terrorist organizations, and folded Space Command into another combatant command. A return to Colorado appears imminent.
"Colorado is uniquely positioned to support the new Space Command headquarters, and it is my hope that the continued expansion of military space operations will ensure the United States maintains its position as the global leader in space," Gardner said in a statement.
Two members of Colorado's congressional delegation hope their districts will receive Space Command.
"Re-establishing SPACECOM in Colorado Springs is the only serious option for providing the desired capability on the shortest, most cost-effective timeline," Congressman Doug Lamborn wrote in an op-ed in SpaceNews on April 23. Three of the four Colorado bases that are finalists are located in Colorado Springs, which is part of Lamborn's district.
Congressman Jason Crow hopes Space Command moves to Buckley Air Force Base, which is located in his district in Aurora.
"I, of course, think Buckley is the ideal place. We have the infrastructure, the deep pool of talented workers, the aerospace and space economy and private industry," Crow told Westword in April, later adding that basing Space Command in Aurora would be a "boon for the economy."
"Space Command would fuel job growth for decades to come and solidify Colorado’s role as the global aerospace leader," he added.
The Trump administration is also pushing for the establishment of Space Force, a proposed military branch that would be focused solely on space warfare. And Trump would like to see the U.S. send American astronauts to both the moon and Mars in the coming years.
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