WASHINGTON, Nov. 20 (Sputnik) - The US Space Force (USSF) won't be sending service members out into the cosmos anytime soon, but those who join could find themselves at one of half a dozen Earth-based sites picked by the Department of the Air Force to host the new service's headquarters.
On Thursday, the US Air Force (USAF) released a list of six bases where it could potentially place US Space Command, the headquarters of the USSF.
"Self-nominated communities from across twenty-four states were evaluated as potential locations for hosting the headquarters," the USAF said. However, in the end, it selected six finalists: Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico; Patrick AFB in Florida; Offutt AFB in Nebraska; Redstone Arsenal in Alabama; Joint Base San Antonio in Texas; and Peterson AFB in Colorado, from which it is presently run.
The Air Force says the final decision should come in early 2021; however, the move itself isn’t likely until 2026, according to Politico.
Each base has something to offer: Kirtland is Air Force Global Strike Command’s largest base and home to Air Force Command’s Nuclear Weapons Center, and Patrick AFB is already a Space Command base, because it runs the Cape Canaveral rocket launch facility. In fact, Patrick was due to be renamed Patrick Space Force Base earlier this year, until the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the move.
San Antonio is the Defense Department’s single largest facility, housing some 80,000 people, and includes several Air Force training, education and personnel commands. Offutt is the home of US Strategic Command, which managed US space assets between 2002 and 2019, during the period in which Space Command was deactivated. Redstone is home to the US Army's Aviation and Missile Command, the US Missile Defense Agency and NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.
The list is a little different from that released by Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson in May 2019, at which time the USSF had not even formally been created yet - an event that happened in December of that year. That list included Peterson and Redstone, but also the Colorado air bases at Buckley, Cheyenne Mountain and Schriever, as well as Vandenberg AFB, north of Los Angeles, California.
As the headquarters is sure to bring a ton of high-tech jobs to whichever community hosts it, politicians have tried to curry favor with the Air Force to encourage it to pick their town’s air base. However, the Department of the Air Force said earlier this year a variety of criteria will come into consideration, including a rating of 50 or higher on the AARP livability index, a spot in the top 150 metropolitan areas and the ability to provide all the logistical support necessary, including living areas and amenities, for the staff that would be reassigned to the base.
For now, the Space Force has no humans deployed in space and only recently launched its first satellite. However, the Pentagon has had extensive space assets for decades, with their responsibilities split between different service branches.