Dec 22, 2019 - Science

Space Force becomes the newest branch of the U.S. military

 Animated GIF of a constellation in the shape of a soldier

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The U.S. Space Force has become the sixth and newest branch of the nation's military, after President Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act.

Space is the world’s new war-fighting domain."
— President Trump's remarks at the launch

Our thought bubble, per Axios' Miriam Kramer: Some space experts are concerned that the U.S. has fallen behind as other nations — like China — have made moves to weaponize space. The establishment of the Space Force could help the U.S. catch up.

  • Others warn that the Space Force will put too much focus on military uses of outer space instead of maintaining it as a peaceful realm.

The big picture: The Space Force became the newest military service since 1947 when Trump signed the bill into law on Friday, just two days after being impeached by the House.

  • It's part of a $1.4 trillion government spending package, which encompasses the budget of the Pentagon. It provides a "steady stream of financing" for the president's southern border wall plans, reversing an "unpopular and unworkable automatic spending cuts to defense and domestic programs, AP notes.
  • Some 16,000 Air Force members and civilians who worked at Air Force Space Command have been assigned to serve the new military branch, which was re-designated the Space Force.

What's next: Some of the new personnel will be officially transferred to the Space Force next year, "while others will remain within the Air Force," per ABC News, which notes service members from the "Army and Navy's space programs will be integrated into the new service."

What to watch: Kaitlyn Johnson, a space policy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, noted to AP that with many Democrats against the Space Force becoming a separate military branch, the service "could be curtailed or even dissolved if a Democrat wins the White House next November."

Go deeper: Space Force's Catch-22

Go deeper