Donald Trump has tasked a four-star air force general with spearheading efforts to maintain US dominance across space, declaring the final frontier vital to the defence of America.
The president appeared to channel his inner Buzz Lightyear as he launched Space Command, which he said had been established by the Pentagon on what he described as a “landmark day”.
During a White House ceremony, Mr Trump said Space Command “will ensure that America’s dominance in space is never questioned and never threatened” – and stressed its importance to defence and national security.
General John Raymond has been appointed as first commander of Space Command, which will conduct operations such as enabling satellite-based navigation and communications for troops and commanders in the field, and providing warning of missile launches abroad.
However, this should not be confused with another ambitious project for the president – Space Force.
Space Force, which was announced in 2018, has been pitched by Mr Trump as a distinct military branch, like the army or navy, but it has not yet been approved by Congress due to some scepticism from Republicans and Democrats alike.
Space warfare capabilities are currently overseen by the US Air Force.
Former defence secretary Jim Mattis considered Space Force potentially redundant and a poor use of his budget, although his successor Mark Esper has been a strong supporter of the idea.
Efforts to have it pass through Congress will resume after the August recess, but until then Space Command can get to work on its remit.
But it will have little practical effect on how the military handles its space responsibilities for the time being, as more than three-quarters of those efforts are currently handled by the existing Air Force Space Command.
Responsibilities are expected to be handed over gradually.
Space has become a focus for the Trump administration due to concerns over the vulnerability of US satellites – both commercial and military – to potential disruption by China and Russia.
Mr Esper said: “To ensure the protection of America’s interests in space, we must apply the necessary focus, energy and resources to the task, and that is exactly what Space Command will do.
“As a unified combatant command, the United States Space Command is the next crucial step toward the creation of an independent Space Force as an additional armed service.”
Source: SKY NEWS