When the Defense Department authorization bill that included a provision that created the United States Space Force as a separate branch of the military, the section was surprisingly non-controversial. Most Democrats in both the House and the Senate voted in favor of the measure. To be sure, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont offered a complaint as did Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. Both liberal senators missed the vote, being too busy running for president, according to Stars and Stripes.
One other entity reacted badly to the establishment of the United States Space Force. ABC News explains.
“Rising space power China on Monday attacked the newly created U.S. Space Force as a direct threat to outer space peace and security. Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters that China is ‘deeply concerned about it and resolutely opposed to it. The relevant U.S. actions are a serious violation of the international consensus on the peaceful use of outer space, undermine global strategic balance and stability, and pose a direct threat to outer space peace and security,” Geng said at a regular briefing.
Geng, needless to say, is being disingenuous, As early as 2007, China tested an anti-satellite weapon on of its own steatites. China is known to be developing a strategy that involves conducting what would be, in effect, a space-based Pearl Harbor by destroying American space assets at the start of an armed conflict with the United States. Indeed, China regards the economic, political, and military dominance of the high frontier as crucial to its long-term strategy to become the sole superpower on Earth, supplanting the United States in that role.
Professor Greg Autry, Ph.D., the director of the Commercial Spaceflight Initiative at the University of Southern California, was studiously unsympathetic to the Chinese point of view on Twitter. “You can always tell you’re doing the right thing when the Chinese dictatorship is worked up over it.”
The United States Space Force is starting modestly, with a $40 million budget, a Chief of Space Operations being added to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and personnel numbering about 200. The Space Force’s initial tasks will be establishing its organization, figuring out where the headquarters will be, which Air Force bases will become Space Force bases, what the uniforms will look like, and how the new service branch will perform its mission.
The initial mission of the Space Force will be to defend America’s space infrastructure and to place that of an enemy at risk, the theory being that it is better to deter a war rather than wage one, even successfully. Considering China’s strategy, it, therefore, becomes understandable why that country perceives the United States Space Force to be a threat, not so much against peace and security, but Beijing’s desire for world domination.
“Space has become increasingly important to the U.S. economy and to everyday life. The Global Positioning System, for example, provides navigation services to the military as well as civilians. Its constellation of about two-dozen orbiting satellites is operated by the 50th Space Wing from an operations center at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado. China has established a similar, independent network, the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System, assembled from 42 separate satellite launches.”
SpaceX’s CEO Elon Musk had a more whimsical reaction on Twitter. “Starfleet begins.”
Musk may be getting a little ahead of himself. Space Force warfighters will likely consist of personnel seated at control consoles on Earth, controlling satellites and space-based weapons platforms. The time when Space Force officers will be flying in space in the real-world versions of the USS Enterprise resides in the likely distant future.
On the other hand, SpaceX is developing a spacecraft called, ironically, the Starship that he says will be capable of taking people and cargo from Earth to the moon and Mars. No doubt when the Space Force is ready to have its own space ships, Musk will be ready to provide them at a reasonable price.
Indeed, as space increasingly becomes crucial to America’s economic vitality and national security, the mission of the United States Space Force is likely to evolve and expand. Lunar and asteroid mines and space-based manufacturing will pass from the realm of science fiction to objective reality. At that point, decades perhaps hence, Musk’s prediction will become less tongue in cheek and more factual.