Air Force Space Command

Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) is a major command of the United States Air Force (USAF), with its headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, and subordinate to U.S. Space Command. AFSPC supports U.S. military operations worldwide through the use of many different types of space operations, and is the primary space force for the U.S. Armed Forces.

Air Force Space Command
Shield of Air Force Space Command
Active1 September 1982–present
(37 years, 3 months)
Branch United States Air Force
TypeMajor command
RoleSpace warfare [2]
Size19,944 airmen[3]
Part of U.S. Space Command
HeadquartersPeterson Air Force Base, Colorado, U.S.
Motto(s)"Guardians of the High Frontier"[4]
Air Force Organization Excellence Award[1]
CommanderGen John W. Raymond[5]
Vice commanderLt Gen David D. Thompson

More than 38,000 people perform AFSPC missions at 88 locations worldwide; they include military personnel of the USAF, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard; Department of the Air Force civilians (DAFC); and civilian contractors.

The Air Force Global Strike Command has responsibility for intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).[6]


In 1982, the United States Space Command (USSPACECOM) was formed to centralize missile warning operations (formerly a Tactical Air Command responsibility) and space launch operations (formerly an Air Force Systems Command responsibility). In 1985, Space Command was renamed Air Force Space Command (AFSPC).

In 1991, the lessons learned during Operation Desert Storm provided emphasis for AFSPC's new focus on support to other branches of the military. The AFSPC was the subject of a 60 Minutes News segment on CBS in April 2015. When speaking with reporter David Martin, commanding General John E. Hyten was able to state that the program was doing its part in keeping the global world of GPS satellites and other important global satellite usage peaceful. Possible issues included the development of anti-satellite technology, and the new Boeing X-37 spaceplane was also discussed.[7]

In 2016 Space Command began their Space Mission Force concept of operations to respond quickly to attacks in space.[8][9] Each Space Wing undergoes special training then serves a four to six-month rotation.[10]


According to AFSPC, its mission is to "Provide resilient and affordable space capabilities for the Joint Force and the Nation."[11]

AFSPC's primary mission areas are:

Space capabilities

Operations at Vandenberg Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station provide services, facilities and range safety control for the conduct of space launches. The AFSPC is responsible for the command and control of all US DoD satellites, providing global coverage, secure communications, weather and navigational data, and threat warning. Ground-based radar and Defense Support Program satellites monitor ballistic missile launches around the world to guard against a surprise missile attack on North America. Space surveillance radars provide vital information on the location of satellites and space debris for the nation and the world.

Space Situational Awareness is the most important protective measure that can be applied to satellites, which are inherently vulnerable due to the physics of spaceflight.[13] As of 2013, AFSPC was also considering the replacement of a few large multimission satellites with larger numbers of smaller single purpose platforms.[14] This could be used to defend against ASATs by increasing the number of targets that would need to be attacked to neutralize space-based capabilities.[15]

Launch Service Agreements

In 2016, the US Congress authorized the USAF to co-finance the development of new launch vehicles. The revised contracting structure fits with the USAF's broader goal of getting out of the business of 'buying rockets' and moving to instead acquire launch services from companies. Initial cost-sharing partnerships were signed with United Launch Alliance (ULA), SpaceX, Orbital ATK, and Aerojet Rocketdyne. The USAF would initially like to move to having two domestic launch service providers, instead of being reliant on ULA.[16] As of March 2018, the Air Force intended to select three companies by mid-year 2018 so that the Space and Missile Systems Center could contract for launch system prototypes.[16]

In October 2018, the U.S. Air Force announced three companies as winners of LSA launch vehicle development contracts. Blue Origin received $500 million for New Glenn, Northrop Grumman was awarded $792 million for OmegA development, and ULA received $967 million for Vulcan Centaur. SpaceX did not receive an LSA award.[17][18]



Launch vehicles

Space situational awareness

Ballistic missile warning radars


Fourteenth Air Force

The Fourteenth Air Force (14 AF) is an active Numbered Air Force that is located at Vandenberg AFB, California. It is responsible for launching payloads to space from facilities in California and Florida and manages the generation and employment of space forces to support U.S. Strategic Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) operational plans and missions.[19]

Direct Reporting Units

AFSPC is responsible for providing space assets to the U.S. Strategic Command. AFSPC also supports NORAD with ballistic missile warning information, operates the Space Warfare Center to develop space capabilities, and is responsible for the US DoD ICBM follow-on operational test and evaluation program.

The Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) at Los Angeles AFB, California, designs and acquires all Air Force and most Department of Defense space systems. It oversees launches, completes on-orbit checkouts, then turns systems over to user agencies. It supports the program executive officer for Space on the NAVSTAR Global Positioning, Defense Satellite Communications and MILSTAR systems. SMC also supports the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program and the Follow-on Early Warning System. In addition, it supports development and acquisition of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles for the Air Force Program Executive Office for Strategic Systems.


The AFSPC headquarters is a major unit located at Peterson AFB, Colorado. There are six AFSPC host bases:

AFSPC also operates several Air Force Stations for launch support and early warning missions:

List of commanders

No. Image Name Start of Term End of Term Notes
1. Gen James V. Hartinger 1 September 1982 30 July 1984 [20]
2. Gen Robert T. Herres 30 July 1984 1 October 1986
3. Maj Gen Maurice C. Padden 1 October 1986 29 October 1987
4. Lt Gen Donald J. Kutyna 29 October 1987 29 March 1990
5. Lt Gen Thomas S. Moorman Jr. 29 March 1990 23 March 1992
6. Gen Donald J. Kutyna 23 March 1992 30 June 1992
7. Gen Charles A. Horner 30 June 1992 13 September 1994
8. Gen Joseph W. Ashy 13 September 1994 26 August 1996
9. Gen Howell M. Estes III 26 August 1996 14 August 1998
10. Gen Richard B. Myers 14 August 1998 22 February 2000
11. Gen Ralph E. Eberhart 22 February 2000 19 April 2002
12. Gen Lance W. Lord 19 April 2002 1 April 2006
Acting Lt Gen Frank G. Klotz 1 April 2006 26 June 2006
13. Gen Kevin P. Chilton 26 June 2006 3 October 2007
Acting Lt Gen Michael A. Hamel 3 October 2007 12 October 2007
14. Gen C. Robert Kehler 12 October 2007 5 January 2011
15. Gen William L. Shelton 5 January 2011 15 August 2014
16. Gen John E. Hyten 15 August 2014 25 October 2016
17. Gen John W. Raymond 25 October 2016 Incumbent

See also

Comparable organizations


  4. "Air Force Space Command Heritage". Air Force Space Command. Archived from the original on 22 March 2014. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
  6. Air Force Space Command: About Us Archived 3 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  7. "The Battle Above, part two". CBS News. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
  8. "Details of Space Mission Force now available from AF Space Command". AFSPC. 15 July 2016. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  9. Prigg, Mark (25 July 2016). "Top Guns in orbit: US Air Force reveals plan for 'Space Mission Force' to protect America using satellites". Daily Mail. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  10. Gruss, Mike (20 July 2016). "U.S. Air Force expands space warfare training". Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  12. Brown, Peter J. (9 July 2009). "Mixed signals over Chinese missiles". Asia Times Online. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
  13. "Future of USAF Space Command". Defense News. 30 September 2012. Archived from the original on 2 October 2012. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
  14. "Disaggregation in Space: A Strategy for National Security Space in an Era of Fiscal Austerity?". George Marshall Institute. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
  15. "Space: Disruptive Challenges" (PDF). Air University. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
  16., accessed 20 December 2018.
  17. Erwin, Sandra (10 October 2018). "Air Force awards launch vehicle development contracts to Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman, ULA". SpaceNews. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  18. Erwin, Sandra (11 October 2018). "Air Force funding three new rockets to compete with SpaceX but only intends to buy launch services from two providers". SpaceNews. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  19. "14th Air Force (Air Forces Strategic)". Vandenberg Air Force Base website. United States Air Force. Archived from the original on 21 April 2013. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
  20. "2011 USAF Almanac" (PDF). Air Force Magazine. May 2011. p. 105. Retrieved 3 April 2013.

 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website

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