The United States Space Force – a mysterious sixth arm of the country’s military – is beginning to take shape. The U.S. President has signed a directive laying the foundations for “a future military department for space,” as the document states.

On February 19, 2019, the U.S. President signed a Space Policy Directive 4, which instructs the Pentagon to develop a legislative proposal to establish a United States Space Force as a sixth branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.

While the U.S. Space Force has yet to lift off (as, for one, the legislation still needs approval by Congress), the President’s supporters have already been invited to vote on its logo. Back in August 2018, Donald Trump’s re-election campaign manager invited them via email to vote on one of six offered designs, that would be later on be sold on merchandise.

If established, it would be the first new military branch in the United States since the Air Force (USAF), which was created in 1947. But differently from the USAF, this new branch would be dedicated to countering threats in space, namely those posed by Russia and China, which have already developed capable counterspace programs, according to Defence Intelligence Agency’s recent report on challenges to security in space.

The  “newcomer” is to be an independent force on a par with existing branches. Initially, the Space Force will be placed under the wing of the USAF, but should become a separate department in time. And it even already has a name – the Department of the Space Force, as foreseen in the directive.

The funding of this new force is expected to be included in the President’s Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Request. It is estimated that required costs –- for now – could be approximately $270 million to cover expenses such as setting up of headquarters, a Space Development Agency and a U.S. Space Command.

However, since the majority of Space Force resources (including staff and space programs) would come from the organization that currently owns most space functions – the U.S. Air Force – the new branch could absorb over $8 billion from its budget. Additional $2 billion could come from budgets of Army and Navy (or rather, their space programs), Space News estimates.

The new military branch should, of course, ”deter and counter threats in space”. However, the directive hints that the Space Force is not only to “enhance the lethality and effectiveness of the Joint Force” but in fact, encompass all needs: it is to “include both combat and combat support functions to enable prompt and sustained offensive and defensive space operations, and joint operations in all domains”. 

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SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy have fallen under scrutiny by the Pentagon, which has initiated a review of the certification of the launch vehicles by the U.S. Air Force. Elon Musk’s company had recently celebrated entering the military space launch market with its first national security space mission completed in December 2018.