The U.S. Army transferred its satellite ground stations to the Space Force on Monday as the latest step in establishing the sixth branch of the U.S. military devoted to demonstrating national dominance in space.
The U.S. Department of Defense announced the transfer last year, which took effect on August 15. All in all, 15 global units with 319 military and 259 civilian personnel from the Army and Navy will transfer to the Space Force’s Space Delta 8, the unit responsible for satellite communications, as stated in the announcement. Space Delta 8 is now in charge of the Wideband Global Satcom and Defense Satellite Communications System, a constellation of military communication satellites, as well as the Global Positioning System constellation for both military and civilian users, among other communication satellites, according to Space News. These satellites were originally built by the U.S. Air Force, and later operated by the military for decades.
In addition to the satellites, the army also transferred $78 million of its budget to the Space Force to cover the cost of operating the satellite ground stations. “We need to create this unity of effort around our space missions, to ensure we’re up to those challenges that we face,” Chance Saltzman, Space Force’s deputy chief of space operations for operations, cyber and nuclear, said in a statement. “The space domain has rapidly become far more congested, and far more contested than…when I was a lieutenant or a captain operating space capabilities.”
But other branches of the military aren’t totally out of the satellite game just yet. DARPA, part of the department of defense for military research, recently announced that it’s working on a plan to standardize communication between satellites in Earth orbit (including civil, government, and military satellites). The U.S. Army is also looking into ways to use space technology for nontraditional warfare.
The Space Force was created in December 2019 as a military branch for the final frontier, defined as the “first articulation of spacepower as a separate and distinct form of military power,” in a statement. Though it hasn’t happened yet, this so-called ‘spacepower’ seems to be preparing for a bleak future that involves the militarization of space as more countries like China set out for missions to the Moon and beyond. Unfortunately, resources in space are even more scarce, and more valuable, than resources on Earth, and until now, there are no clear laws on the distribution of these resources.