Space Command Reaches FOC While “Home” Remains TBD

Space Command Reaches FOC While “Home” Remains TBD

U.S. Space Command reached Full Operational Capability (FOC) today, almost four-and-a-half years after it was reestablished by then-President Trump. Still undecided, however, is where USSPACECOM’s permanent home will be located. The ongoing battle between Colorado and Alabama continues in the just-passed FY2024 National Defense Authorization Act.

Gen. James Dickinson, Commander, U.S. Space Command

Gen. James Dickinson, Commander of USSPACECOM, declared FOC today following an “in-depth evaluation of the command’s capabilities” that included these criteria:

  • Accomplishing the Unified Command Plan mission alongside global campaigning, exercising, and responding to crises.
  • Having the right numbers of skills across the human capital.
  • Having the infrastructure needed to support command and control across mission and business functions.
  • Having the necessary command processes and functions in place.
  • Being able to set the conditions and requirements for the future fight.

USSPACECOM is one of 11 Unified Combatant Commands that fight wars. The six military services — Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Space Force, and Coast Guard — “organize, train, and equip” personnel who are assigned to the Combatant Commands as needed.

USSPACECOM existed from 1985-2002, but was abolished during a reorganization of the Unified Combatant Commands after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Trump reestablished it on August 29, 2019 and it is temporarily headquartered in Colorado Springs, CO where several other national security space installations are located. Initial Operational Capability was declared on August 24, 2021.

Whether Colorado will remain its permanent home is still to be determined.

The years-long battle pits Colorado against Alabama. In January 2021, Trump decided to move it to Alabama in the final days of his presidency sparking charges that it was politically motivated to reward Alabama for its support during his campaign. Alabama’s congressional delegation insisted it was the result of a fair competition, but the Colorado delegation asked President Biden to review it.

Two-and-a-half years later, Biden announced on July 31 he would keep it in Colorado.

House Armed Services Committee chairman Mike Rogers (R-AL), a strident advocate for putting it in his home state, demanded that the Air Force Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office investigate how Biden’s decision was made. The Colorado delegation had done a similar thing following Trump’s decision.

The conference version of the FY2024 NDAA (H.R. 2670) prohibits any funding from being spent “to acquire, construct, plan, or design a new headquarters building” for USSPACECOM until June 30, 2024 when the Air Force IG and GAO investigations are completed.

The Senate passed the conference version of the NDAA on December 13 and the House followed suit the next day.  The bill was presented to the President yesterday and he is expected to sign it soon.


USSPACECOM was reestablished and the U.S. Space Force created in 2019 because of concern about growing threats to U.S. space capabilities that are vital to U.S. warfighting efforts on Earth. Dickinson singled out Russia, China, North Korea and Iran today.

“Both the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation are fielding counter space capabilities designed to hold U.S., Allied and partner space assets at risk. And North Korea and Iran are in the early stages of developing their space enterprise.” — Gen. James Dickinson

Along with the growing congestion in Earth orbit from space debris and the large number of commercial satellites, USSPACECOM is “motivated and focused” to “prepare to counter threats in, to, and from space.” USSPACECOM provides Combatant Commanders “with space capabilities in support of theater operations, including weather monitoring; space control; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; position, navigation and timing; satellite communications; and missile warning.

The announcement of USSPACECOM reaching FOC comes just when China has launched two high-interest military spacecraft.

Yesterday China launched its uncrewed, reusable military spaceplane for the third time. Thought to be similar to the U.S. X-37B, little is known about what either of them do during their long durations in space. The U.S. vehicle is awaiting launch right now. Scheduled to lift off last Sunday on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy, it was delayed first by weather and then for “additional system checkouts” according to SpaceX. A new launch date is pending.

A U.S. X-37B military spaceplane is awaiting launch at Kennedy Space Center right now. China launched its version yesterday.  (Photo of one of the two U.S. X-37Bs after landing on November 12, 2022. Credit: U.S. Space Force)

Today, China’s largest rocket, the Long March 5, lofted a very large optical remote sensing satellite, Yaogan-41 (Remote Sensing Satellite-41), towards geostationary orbit. Xinhua described it as a civilian satellite for purposes such as land surveys and crop yield estimation, but it is generally thought to be a military reconnaissance satellite. As first reported by Andrew Jones of Space News, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp (CASC) noted that the fairing protecting this satellite during launch is much longer than usual, 18.5 meters, to accommodate a larger satellite. Jones says previous fairings were 12.3 meters long, so that’s a substantial change.

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