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Air Force Space Command

Air Force Space Command
Air Force Space Command emblem
Active 1 September 1982–present
Country United States of America
Branch Air Force
Type Major Command
Role Development and operation of military space technologies
Size 38,000
Part of U.S. Strategic Command
Garrison/HQ Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado
Nickname AFSPC
Motto Guardians of the High Frontier [1]
Commander Gen John E. Hyten[2]
Vice Commander Maj Gen David J. Buck[3]
Executive Director Barbara Westgate[4]
Command Chief Master Sergeant CMSgt Douglas L. McIntyre[5]

Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) is a major command of the United States Air Force, with its headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. AFSPC supports U.S. military operations worldwide through the use of many different types of satellite, launch and cyber operations. Operationally, AFSPC is an Air Force component command subordinate to U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), a unified combatant command.

More than 38,000 people perform AFSPC missions at 88 locations worldwide and comprises Regular Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard military personnel, Department of the Air Force Civilians (DAFC), and civilian military contractors. Composition consist of approximately 22,000 military personnel and 9,000 civilian employees, although their missions overlap.

AFSPC gained the cyber operations mission with the stand-up of 24th Air Force under AFSPC in August 2009. On 1 December 2009, the strategic nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) mission that AFSPC inherited from Air Combat Command (ACC) in 1993, and which ACC had inherited following the inactivation of Strategic Air Command (SAC) in 1992, was transferred to the newly established Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC).[6]


According to AFSPC, its mission is to "Provide resilient and affordable Space and Cyberspace capabilities for the Joint Force and the Nation."[7] As a result, AFSPC's activities make the space domain reliable to United States warfighters (i.e., combat forces personnel) by assuring their access to space.

AFSPC's primary mission areas are:

  • Force enhancement, providing satellite-based weather, communications, intelligence, missile warning, and navigation; force enhancement is direct support to the warfighter


During the Cold War, space operations focused on missile warning and associated command and control for the National Command Authority (NCA). Missile warning operations from the former Aerospace Defense Command (ADC) that had been assumed by Tactical Air Command (TAC) in the late 1970s, and space and spacelift/space launch operations that had been resident in the Air Force Systems Command (AFSC), were combined to form a new Air Force major command (MAJCOM) in 1982 known as Space Command. Following the creation of United States Space Command (USSPACECOM) as a Unified Combatant Command, in 1985, Space Command was renamed Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) and assigned to USSPACECOM as its USAF component command.

In 1991, Operation Desert Storm provided emphasis for AFPSC's new focus on support to the warfighter. ICBM forces previously assigned to the inactivated Strategic Air Command (SAC) were merged into AFSPC in 1993 until moved into Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) in 2009. Air Force Space Command also became the lead MAJCOM for all Air Force cyberspace operations in 2009, gaining Air Force cyber operations and combat communications units, the Air Force Network Integration Center, and the Air Force Spectrum Management Office (formerly known as the Air Force Frequency Management Agency). On 1 April 2013, Air Force Space Command announced that the Space Innovation and Development Center's missions had been realigned under Headquarters, Air Force Space Command, and the Air Force Warfare Center of the Air Combat Command (ACC).[9]

The Space Command was the subject of a 60 Minutes News segment on CBS in April of 2015. When speaking with 60 Minutes reporter David Martin, commanding General John E. Hyten was not able to respond to many of the questions, claiming the information was classified but that the program was doing its part in keeping the global world of GPS satellites and other important global satellite usage peaceful. To ensure satellite safety, General Hyten confirmed the belief that other countries were developing anti-satellite technology, but that the Space Command Program was developing technologies of their own, including telescopic lasers to better track the paths of satellites. Reporter David Martin also asked about the new Boeing X-37 "space plane" the US Air Force had been testing. General Hyten confirmed that it could bring satellites into orbit and bring them back, and that the US Air Force would do everything they could to protect the country and its satellites from the danger that could be brought by anti-satellite technology from China and Russia in the future. This CBS interview was a peek into the secretive Space Command that protects the billion-dollar US satellites that provide essential global navigation and surveillance. [10]

List of commanders

No. Image Name Start of Term End of Term Notes
1. 75px Gen James V. Hartinger 1 September 1982 30 July 1984 [11]
2. 75px Gen Robert T. Herres 30 July 1984 1 October 1986
3. Maj Gen Maurice C. Padden 1 October 1986 29 October 1987
4. 75px Lt Gen Donald J. Kutyna 29 October 1987 29 March 1990
5. 75px Lt Gen Thomas S. Moorman Jr. 29 March 1990 23 March 1992
6. 75px Gen Donald J. Kutyna 23 March 1992 30 June 1992
7. 75px Gen Charles A. Horner 30 June 1992 13 September 1994
8. 75px Gen Joseph W. Ashy 13 September 1994 26 August 1996
9. 75px Gen Howell M. Estes III 26 August 1996 14 August 1998
10. 75px Gen Richard B. Myers 14 August 1998 22 February 2000
11. 75px Gen Ralph E. Eberhart 22 February 2000 19 April 2002
12. 75px Gen Lance W. Lord 19 April 2002 1 April 2006
Acting 75px Lt Gen Frank G. Klotz 1 April 2006 26 June 2006
13. 75px Gen Kevin P. Chilton 26 June 2006 3 October 2007
Acting Lt Gen Michael A. Hamel 3 October 2007 12 October 2007
14. 75px Gen C. Robert Kehler 12 October 2007 5 January 2011
15. 75px Gen William L. Shelton 5 January 2011 15 August 2014
16. 75px Gen John E. Hyten 15 August 2014 Incumbent


Numbered Air Forces

Air Force Space Command has two active Numbered Air Forces (NAFs).

Fourteenth Air Force

Main article: Fourteenth Air Force

The Fourteenth Air Force provides space warfighting forces to U.S. Strategic Command in its capacity as Air Forces Strategic-Space, and is located at Vandenberg AFB, California. It 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.[12]

Twenty-Fourth Air Force

The Twenty-Fourth Air Force's mission is to operate, extend, and defend the Air Force Information Network, defend key mission systems, and provide full spectrum cyberspace capabilities for the joint warfighter in, through, and from cyberspace. It is headquartered at Lackland AFB, Texas.

Direct Reporting Units

AFSPC is the major command providing space forces and trained cyber warfare forces for U.S. Strategic Command. AFSPC also supports NORAD with ballistic missile warning information, operates the Space Warfare Center to develop space applications for direct warfighter support, and is responsible for the U.S. Department of Defense's ICBM follow-on operational test and evaluation program.

Space and Missile Systems Center

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 Office 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.

Air Force Network Integration Center

The Air Force Network Integration Center (AFNIC), located at Scott AFB, IL, is a direct reporting unit to Air Force Space Command, and the Air Force's premier organization for Air Force Network Integration, cyber simulation, and network standards, architecture and engineering services.

Air Force Spectrum Management Office

The AFSMO mission is to plan, provide and preserve access to the radio frequency spectrum for the Air Force and selected Department of Defense activities in support of national policy objectives, systems development and global operations. This includes obtaining spectrum access critical for all Air Force core functions.


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

With its assumption of the cyber mission, AFSPC also maintains additional activities at the following bases, most of which are under ACC, USAFE, PACAF, AETC, AFMC, AFSOC, AFRC or non-USAF control:

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

Space capabilities

Spacelift operations at the East and West Coast launch bases provide services, facilities and range safety control for the conduct of DOD, NASA and commercial launches. Through the command and control of all DOD satellites, satellite operators provide force-multiplying effects—continuous global coverage, low vulnerability and autonomous operations. Satellites provide essential in-theater secure communications, weather and navigational data for ground, air and fleet operations 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.

General Shelton has said that in order to protect against attacks, Space Situational Awareness is much more important than additional hardening or armoring of satellites.[13]

As of 2013, Air Force Space Command is considering Space Disaggregation, which would involve replacing 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 needed to be attacked.[15]



Launch vehicles

Space situational awareness

Ballistic missile warning radars

In popular culture

In the science-fiction TV series’ Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis, and Stargate Universe the fictional Stargate Program is managed by the U.S. military, primarily the Air Force. The Air Force Space Command patch was in those series worn by personnel at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, and onboard various fictional spaceships.

See also

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  1. ^ "Air Force Space Command Heritage". Air Force Space Command. Retrieved 21 March 2014. 
  2. ^ "General John E. Hyten". United States Air Force. Retrieved 15 August 2014. 
  3. ^ "Major General David J. Buck". United States Air Force. Retrieved 15 August 2014. 
  4. ^ "Barbara A. Westgate". United States Air Force. Retrieved 3 April 2013. 
  5. ^ "Chief Master Sergeant Douglas McIntyre". United States Air Force Space Command. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ US Air Force. "Air Force Space Command". AFSPC. Archived from the original on 28 February 2014. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  8. ^ Brown, Peter J. (9 July 2009). "Mixed signals over Chinese missiles". Asia Times Online. Retrieved 3 April 2013. 
  9. ^ "AFSPC Public Web Site". Retrieved 1 April 2013. 
  10. ^ "The Battle Above, part two". CBS News. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved 7 May 2015. 
  11. ^ "2011 USAF Almanac" (PDF). Air Force Magazine. May 2011. p. 105. Retrieved 12 September 2011. 
  12. ^ "14th Air Force (Air Forces Strategic)". Vandenberg Air Force Base website. United States Air Force. Retrieved 3 April 2013. 
  13. ^ "Future of USAF Space Command". Defense News. 30 September 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. 

12px This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

External links

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