So you’ve signed up for the United States Space Force, and you’re all geared up to become one of those badasses from the movie Alien… Now what? Which Military Occupational Specialty do you choose to fire Gatling lasers from the X-37 military space shuttle?
Take a breath, young warrior, we aren’t there… Yet. The Space Force, America’s youngest military branch, has a vital if a little boring mission compared to the hype and propaganda. Let’s take a look at what these Guardians (yeah, that’s what they’re actually called) are in charge of.
Structurally, the USSF functions within the US Air Force framework, in a similar fashion to the Marine Corps functions within that of the Navy; separate branches with different missions, but mutually supportive and intrinsically linked.
As it stands today, 75% of operations are conducted utilizing Air Force installations, offices, equipment, and personnel, in order to reduce cost and maintain efficiency while the new branch gets up and running, and at least some percentage will remain after that goal is met.
According to their website, “The USSF is responsible for organizing, training, and equipping Guardians to conduct global space operations that enhance the way our joint and coalition forces fight, while also offering decision makers military options to achieve national objectives.” Sounds like a solid if slightly vague mission statement, but realistically it comes down to three key areas.
Space lift operations at the East and West Coast launch bases provide services, facilities and range safety control for the conduct of DOD, NASA and commercial space launches.
Even after several decades, both the security of the sites themselves and the technology used by both public and private entities are closely guarded, as are the procedures and projects involved. Guardians have a quite literal duty to do as their name suggests.
Through the command and control of all DOD satellites, satellite operators provide force-multiplying effects – continuous global coverage, low vulnerability and autonomous operations. Satellites provide essential in-theater secure communications, weather and navigational data for ground, air and fleet operations and threat warning.
Operators on the ground get cool movies and flashy video games, to be sure, but the secure comms and up to date satellite maps of the AO? That comes from the men and women manning the consoles at various satellite C and C stations throughout the world. Not to mention making sure that all our flashy technology can talk to the rest, an ability without which would make them very expensive bricks.
Ground-based and space-based systems monitor ballistic missile launches around the world to guard against a surprise missile attack on North America. A global network of space surveillance sensors provides vital information on the location of satellites and space debris for the nation and the world. Maintaining space superiority is an emerging capability required to protect U.S. space assets from hostile attacks.
Two vital functions in one; tracking intentional threats launched at us by our enemies (or properly recognizing that flock of Norwegian geese and avoiding a missile war) and tracking the ever-growing cloud of space junk surrounding our planet. The missile threat has been around for decades, and most people are at least vaguely aware of it through spy films and the like, but space trash? There is enough debris in our orbit that it interferes with launches, observations from planet side, and is generally considered a major hazard… And that’s when it stays up there.
It remains to be seen whether this new kid has the chops for what comes next, but given a clear goal and support from their big sister, the US Space Force could very well be the place to be if you want your first laser rifle for null-G combat… Just not any time soon.