President Trump announced the creation of a US Space Force months ago, to immediate ridicule. Despite this, the Trump administration expects the space force will be up and running by 2020.
What Is The Space Force?
The Space Force was initially envisioned as a separate, distinct military entity, designed to combat threats in the theatre of space.
At this point no one is suggesting that the Space Force would be sending troops into space. It would more likely be focused around the regulation of foreign space-based weaponry or surveillance systems.
There are thousands of satellites in orbit above the Earth, all of which could be potential targets.
Why Would The USA Need It?
Many experts are claiming the future of warfare will be in space. Global powers like China are rapidly making progress in space-faring technology, and will no doubt be looking to make moves into expanding into new territory beyond Earth. China demonstrated its ability to shoot down satellites as far back as 2007, and their capabilities have only increased since then.
Many of our daily conveniences are only possible through satellites operating in orbit: TV, bank transactions, GPS navigation. If these satellites were destroyed, it could have a massive impact on daily life on the ground.
There are several space programs currently split across different agencies and military organisations. The Space Force would bring all of these together in one centralised organisation that can manage resources more effectively, in the aim of turning the US into a competitive and capable player in the new space race.
However, critics argued this move would be largely redundant, given that there is already an Air Force department with 30,000 people that work in the space sector.
The Outer Space Treaty currently dictates that all interactions in space be peaceful. New military branches like the Space Force make this seem increasingly unlikely.
Will The Space Force Ever Actually Happen?
The concept of a United States military presence in space has actually been around for decades. During the Cold War there were some calls for a similar initiative, an orbital battle-station that could destroy missiles. Ronald Reagan called this the Strategic Defence Initiative, but it went on to be known as the ‘Star Wars’ programme due to the concept being incredibly similar to the Death Star.
Recently it has been announced that the Space Force would be overseen by the Air Force, rather than being a separate branch of the military on its own. This is due to the fact that creating a separate branch of the military would require Congressional approval.
A new report issued by the Congressional Budget Office has revealed that the Space force could cost $1.3 billion per year. This is on top of the $270 million that has already been requested for the Space Force headquarters. This budget is still yet to be approved.
Furthermore, the Space Force wouldn’t be able to take on new recruits. It would have to instead take existing Air Force personnel and transfer them into the new service.
What Benefits Could It Bring?
The Space Force would require help from the commercial space market. Current NASA operations still use private companies to transport goods and parts to the International Space Station, and this would only increase if more resources were put into space. Through this cooperation, we would likely see massive strides in technology, which would then be put back into commercial space flight, or everyday appliances.
Whether the Space Force ever materialises or not, it’s unfortunately likely that we will see increased military activity in space as countries vie for dominance.
Learn about new technology that could change spaceflight, or read about why China wants to go to the dark side of the moon.