President Trump on Thursday, Aug 29, officially launched the U.S Space Command to preserve American dominance on “the ultimate high ground.”

Speaking at the ceremony, the president stressed the importance of establishing Space Command (SPACECOM). 

“Now, those who wish to harm the United States to—seek to challenge us in the ultimate high ground of space. It’s going to be a whole different ballgame,” President Trump said.

“The establishment of the 11th Combatant Command is a landmark moment. This is a landmark day—one that recognizes the centrality of space to America’s national security and defense,” he added.

The establishment of Space Command is considered a key step toward creating Space Force. 

“SPACECOM will soon be followed, very importantly, by the establishment of the United States Space Force as the sixth branch of the United States Armed Forces. And that’s really something, when you think about it. The Space Force will organize, train, and equip warriors to support SPACECOM’s mission,” the president said. 

The role of the new Space Command is to conduct operations such as enabling satellite-based navigation and communications for troops and commanders in the field and providing warning of missile launches abroad. That is different from a Space Force, which would be a distinct military service like the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.

Congress has inched toward approving the creation of a Space Force despite skepticism from some lawmakers of both parties. The House and Senate bills differ on some points, and an effort to reconcile the two will begin after Congress returns from its August recess, according to AP.

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Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Wednesday, Aug. 28, said the creation of Space Command is “to ensure the protection of America’s interests in space, we must apply the necessary focus, energy, and resources to the task, and that is exactly what Space Command will do,” Esper said on Wednesday.

“As a unified command, the United States Space Command is the next crucial step toward the creation of an independent Space Force as an additional armed service—an independent additional armed service,” said Esper.

President Trump said Space Command will protect the United States from adversaries that are weaponizing Earth’s orbits and missiles launched against the United States.

“Our adversaries are weaponizing Earth’s orbits with new technology targeting American satellites that are critical to both battlefield operations and our way of life at home. Our freedom to operate in space is also essential to detecting and destroying any missile launched against the United States,” the president said. 

Gen. John Raymond was confirmed by the Senate in June to be the commander of Space Command. He currently heads Air Force Space Command.

President Trump praised Raymond at the ceremony, calling him a “highly respected” man who he knows “is going to a do a fantastic job.”

“Under Gen. Raymond’s leadership, SPACECOM will boldly deter aggression and outpace America’s rivals by far,” the president added. 

Includes reporting from The Associate Press