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SpaceX launches GPS III satellite for Space Force

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the third in a series of next-generation GPS III satellites into orbit today, marking another step forward for America’s satellite-based navigation system and the Space Force that manages it.

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X-37 space plane begins shadowy orbital mission

A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket launched a Boeing-built X-37B space plane today on a semi-secret orbital mission under the management of the recently created Space Force.

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Space Force X-37B mission to test power beaming

X-37B space plane
The Pentagon’s X-37B space plane is encapsulated within the payload fairing of its Atlas 5 launch vehicle. (Boeing Photo)

When a Boeing-built X-37B space plane is sent into orbit this month for the test program’s sixth flight, it will try out a technology that’s been more than a decade in the making: space-based solar power.

An experiment designed by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory will transform solar power into a microwave beam, potentially for transmission to the ground. If such a power-beaming system could be perfected, concentrated microwave energy from space could conceivably be converted to electricity for far-flung military outposts.

Back in 2007, the Pentagon issued a report saying the U.S. military could be an “anchor tenant customer” for space-based power generation systems. That report piggybacked on a NASA study that was written a decade earlier, assessing the feasibility of wireless power transmission from space.

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Space Force’s first official orbital mission begins

AEHF-6 launch
United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket launches the AEHF-6 military communications satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. (ULA via YouTube)

The first satellite mission conducted under the name of the U.S. Space Force got underway today with the launch of the AEHF-6 military communications satellite atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket.

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Space Force’s new seal sparks Star Trek snark

We don’t know whether Mr. Spock would have cocked an eyebrow over the Starfleet-like U.S. Space Force seal that was revealed by President Donald Trump today, but we’ve found out what Star Trek’s Mr. Sulu would do.

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Space Force flies through flak over earthy uniforms

Space Force uniform
The U.S. Space Force puts its own nametape on what looks like a standard-issue woodland camouflage uniform. (U.S. Space Force Photo via Twitter)

The newly minted U.S. Space Force unveiled its uniform on Jan. 17 — and defended its fashion statement against Twitter criticism that the camouflage color scheme should have been more spacey.

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Trump signs the Space Force into existence

Trump signs bill into law
President Donald Trump signs the National Defense Authorization Act as VIPs including First Lady Melania Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Karen Pence look on. (White House via YouTube)

Amid military fanfare, President Donald Trump signed a defense authorization bill into law to create the U.S. Space Force as a sixth branch of the armed forces.

“This is a very big and important moment,” Trump told hundreds of military personnel and VIPs who gathered at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland for today’s signing ceremony.

The Space Force is intended to bring together military resources focusing on the high frontier, including potential threats from GPS jammers, anti-satellite weapons, space-based weapons and hypersonic attack vehicles.

Trump said the creation of the Space Force recognizes that the final frontier has evolved into a distinct warfighting domain.

“American superiority in space is absolutely vital,” he said. “We’re leading, but we’re not leading by enough. But very shortly, we’ll be leading by a lot.”

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Trump kicks off Space Command; Space Force next?

Space Command ceremony
The official flag of the newly revived U.S. Space Command is unfurled at a White House Rose Garden ceremony, with Air Force Gen. Jay Raymond, President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Defense Secretary Mark Esper looking on. (White House Photo / Tia Dufour)

President Donald Trump today hailed the revival of the U.S. Space Command to protect America’s technological assets on the final frontier, and put in another pitch for the establishment of a U.S. Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces.

“This is a landmark day — one that recognizes the centrality of space to America’s national security and defense,” the president said.

“As the newest combatant command, SPACECOM will defend America’s vital interests in space — the next warfighting domain. And I think that’s pretty obvious to everybody. It’s all about space,” Trump declared during a White House Rose Garden ceremony that was also attended by Vice President Mike Pence, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and other officials.

“This is a landmark day — one that recognizes the centrality of space to America’s national security and defense,” the president said.

After Trump spoke, Esper signed the documents establishing the Space Command.

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Budget proposal tightens the screws on science

Space Launch System
An artist’s conception shows NASA’s Space Launch System in flight. (NASA Illustration)sls

The White House’s $4.7 trillion spending plan for fiscal year 2020 aims to give a boost to the Space Force, but would dial down work on NASA’s Space Launch System, zero out the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, leave salmon in the lurch and slash science spending on other fronts.

When it comes to outer space, the brightest spotlight falls on lunar exploration and space commercialization — which is in line with the priorities of the National Space Council, headed by Vice President Mike Pence. And when it comes to earthly realms in science and technology, artificial intelligence and quantum computing shine.

It’s important to remember, however, that every year’s budget request is pronounced “dead on arrival” by critics in Congress. That’s particularly so this year, with Democrats in control of the House.

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Space Force to be created under Air Force’s wing

Oval Office signing
Vice President Mike Pence makes comments at an Oval Office signing ceremony for Space Policy Directive 4, alongside President Donald Trump and officials including Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan, Air Force Gen. Paul Selva and Susan Gordon, principal deputy director of national intelligence. (White House Photo)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump today signed a space policy directive that lays out further steps in the creation of the U.S. Space Force as a sixth military branch housed within the Department of the Air Force.

The plan wouldn’t involve splitting off Space Force from the Air Force immediately, although it leaves the door open to take that step at a later time. As described in the White House’s Space Policy Directive 4, the arrangement would be similar to the Marine Corps’ status as a military branch within the Department of the Navy.

Such a concept is more likely to meet with approval from the Democratic-led House, which along with the Senate would have to approve the Space Force’s creation.

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., who heads the House Armed Services Committee, told Politico earlier this month that “we can work with” the concept, which some have referred to as a “Space Corps” rather than a Space Force. In contrast, Smith previously voiced his opposition to the idea of creating a Space Force that was independent from the Air Force.

The Space Force would be the first new military branch created since the Air Force was born in 1947. (The others are the Army, the Navy, the Marines and the Coast Guard.)

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