President Donald Trump signed Space Policy Directive-4 (SPD-4) to establish the Space Force as the sixth branch of the United States military

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President Donald Trump signed Space Policy Directive-4 (SPD-4) to establish the Space Force as the sixth branch of the United States military

The Space Force just took a big step from sci-fi-sounding dream toward reality.

Known as Space Policy Directive 4 (SPD-4), the directive orders the Pentagon draft legislation for Congress that would create the Space Force as a part of the U.S. Air Force.

This would establish the first military branch in 72 years. The Air Force is the nation’s youngest branch and was added shortly after World War II.

“America must be fully equipped to defend our vital interests.

Our adversaries are training forces and developing technology to undermine our security in space, and they’re working very hard at that,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

The National Space Council developed the directive alongside counterparts at the Pentagon, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, National Security Council, Office of Management and Budget, and the White House Counsel’s Office.

Currently the U.S. Air Force manages the space domain through the U.S. Space Command.

This proposed Space Force would stand alongside the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. However, the newest branch is expected to be akin to the structure of the Marine Corps, which is a component of the U.S. Department of the Navy but has separate representation on the Joint Chiefs.

But the Space Force still has a big hoop to jump through: Congress must approve the creation of any new military branch.

The main goal of the Space Force is to secure and extend American dominance of the space domain, Trump and other White House officials have said. Such reasoning has drawn opposition from various quarters.

“President Trump has called space a new warfighting domain.

Space is important to militaries, that’s true, but it is only a small piece of what happens up there,” Laura Grego, a senior scientist in the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Global Security program, said in a statement today.

“Eighty percent of the nearly 2,000 satellites are civilian, providing critical communications and economic services for humanity’s well-being,” Grego added.

“We need to take care of space.

If concentrating authority in a space force creates an incentive for nations to build space weapons that increase the likelihood of conflict, it would be a profoundly bad idea.

The Space Force would initially reside within the Department of the Air Force, much as the Marine Corps is part of the U.S. Navy. 

“If enacted, it will be our responsibility to deter and defeat threats in space through the U.S. Space Force, which will organize, train, and equip military space forces,” Air Force officials told Space.com in an emailed statement.

“It will be our obligation to ensure unfettered access to, and freedom to operate in space, and to provide vital capabilities to joint and coalition forces.”

But Trump administration officials have said they eventually aim to push the Space Force out from under the Air Force’s wings and make it a stand-alone organization.

President Trump first teased the idea of a Space Force in March 2018, in comments that made it seem like he might have been joking.

But the president signed an executive order directing the creation of the new branch that June.

Many details about the Space Force — exactly how much it might cost, for example — remain unclear.

As its name suggests, SPD-4 is President Trump’s fourth space policy directive.

The first SPD directed NASA to get humans back to the moon as a stepping-stone to Mars.

The second streamlined regulations for the commercial space sector, and the third dealt with management of space traffic.


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