Cape Canaveral Becomes First Space Force Base

'America leading in space once again' as China looks to space as the next South China Sea
December 9, 2020 Updated: December 9, 2020

The airbase at Cape Canaveral in Florida, which launched the first ever U.S. astronaut, has been redesignated as one of the first two Space Force bases, Vice President Mike Pence announced today.

The nearby headquarters on what is known as the Space Coast has also changed hands, now becoming the Patrick Space Force Base.

The U.S. Space Force was launched in 2019, joining the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps as a distinct fighting force—the first time a new military service has been created for more than 60 years.

“America is leading in Space once again,” Pence told a meeting of the National Space Council on Dec. 9, in which he named the 18 astronauts who, in 2024, will be leaving earth in NASA’s first mission to moon for over 50 years.

The last mission to the moon was also launched from Cape Canaveral, where Pence made his announcement.

Last week, Beijing landed a probe on the surface of the moon and raise the Chinese Communist Party flag with a robotic arm, noted Pence.

“China is increasingly emerging as a serious competitor in space,” he said.

According to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), China is second only to the United States in the number of operational satellites, with more than 120 devoted to intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.

China has also been developing its warfare capabilities in space.

Vice President Mike Pence
Vice President Mike Pence addresses supporters at campaign rally in Tallahassee, Fla., on Oct. 24, 2020. (Steve Cannon/AP Photo)

“PLA analysis of U.S. and allied military operations states that ‘destroying or capturing satellites and other sensors’ would make it difficult to use precision-guided weapons,” notes the latest DIA report on space (pdf). “Moreover, PLA writings suggest that reconnaissance, communications, navigation, and early warning satellites could be among the targets of attacks designed to ‘blind and deafen the enemy.’”

America jumped back into the space race under the Trump administration earlier this year, launching the first astronauts from U.S. soil for over a decade after the space shuttle program was shut down.

That launch was carried out by SpaceEx—in keeping with the administration’s strategy of working with private enterprise to pick up the pace in the space race.

The importance of such partnerships has been underscored in the administration’s National Space Strategy, released today by the White House.

“A robust, innovative, and competitive commercial space sector is the source of continued progress and sustained United States leadership in space,” said the document.

The document asserts the right of the United States to defend its space-based assets, including satellites, saying any attack “that directly affects national rights will be met with a deliberate response at a time, place, manner, and domain of our choosing.”

The document also says that the United States will “deter, counter, and defeat threats in the space domain that are hostile to the national interests of the United States and its allies.”

The document also reiterates the goal of establishing a permanent base on moon, and human missions to Mars.

Some analysts say China regards space as the next South China Sea. So too, America’s space policy increasingly resembles its policies in international waters, echoing the recent pushback against Beijing in the Pacific through freedom of navigation exercises, deterrence, and building of regional partnerships.

Geopolitical dynamics are increasingly set to spill out beyond Earth to the moon, Mars, and beyond as China and America seek to gain strategic footholds.

China is already set to run tests on a small mining satellite in orbit. Next year, it will launch its version of the Hubble One telescope to try to identify which asteroids in orbit around the earth could yield precious minerals.

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