Donald Trump declares new Space Command 'central to American security'

  • Video report by ITV News Washington Correspondent Robert Moore

Donald Trump has declared the new Space Command will be crucial to the country's defence saying it will be the next “war fighting domain”.

The US president said those who wish to challenge American dominance will face "a whole different ball game".

"This is a landmark day," Mr Trump said in a White House ceremony before adding, "one that recognises the centrality of space to America’s national security and defence."

Mr Trump said Space Command will "ensure that America’s dominance in space is never questioned and never threatened".

The Space Command is viewed as a step toward the Space Force military branch - but this would still need congressional approval.

The renewed focus on space as a military domain reflects concern about the vulnerability of US satellites, both military and commercial, that are critical to US interests and are potentially susceptible to disruption by Chinese and Russian anti-satellite weapons.

The role of 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, marines and coastguard.

Congress has inched towards approving the creation of a Space Force despite scepticism from some from 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.

Donald Trump with General John “Jay” Raymond Credit: Carolyn Kaster/AP

When Jim Mattis was defence secretary, the Pentagon was hesitant to embrace the idea of a Space Force. Mr Trump’s first Pentagon chief initially saw it as potentially redundant and not the best use of defence money. His successor, Mark Esper, has cast himself as a strong supporter of creating a Space Force and a command dedicated to space.

"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," Mr Esper said on Wednesday.

"As a unified combatant command, the United States Space Command is the next crucial step toward the creation of an independent Space Force as an additional armed service," he added.

Initially, the opening of Space Command will have little practical effect on how the military handles its space responsibilities. Air Force Space Command currently deals with more than three-quarters of the military space mission, and it is expected to only gradually hand those duties to the new command.

Air force General John "Jay" Raymond, who currently heads Air Force Space Command will serve as the first commander of Space Command.