WASHINGTON: There is a "good chance" that the United States will formally launch its space force next year, President Donald Trump has said.
The National Space Council has also voted to send six strategic recommendations to the president's desk, laying out the administration's vision and a roadmap to establish the force.
"I think we have a good chance next year of officially doing our Space Force," Trump told reporters in a brief interaction during a meeting with military officials on Tuesday.
"Everybody in this room feels strong about Space Force," he said, adding that "I'm talking about defense and offense", and not just rockets going to the Moon or Mars.
Defense Secretary James Mattis said that "right now what we're going to do is set up a combatant command", and the military would be working with the Congress on it. Earlier in the day, Vice President Mike Pence said the space force was essential to protect the US' assets, particularly satellites.
There is an increasing threat to these from countries such as Russia and China, he said. "The purpose of the space force will be to secure our vital national interests in space," Pence said at an event hosted by The Washington Post.
Pence asserted that the US was going to protect its interests in space and said that to understand American defence today, is to understand the interrelationship between satellite technology and aircraft, ships at sea and submarines under the sea.
"Our warfighters on the ground regularly rely on information that is obtained, images that are captured, by satellite technology," he said.
"So, the first order of business is ensuring that the infrastructure of our satellite technology is protected.
And the reality is, the more we look at our competitors in space -- chiefly among them are China and Russia -- we see the deployment of technologies by both of those countries -- anti-satellite technologies," Pence said.
China, not long ago, actually tested a missile that took out one of their own satellites, he said, referring to the deployment of additional and new anti-satellite technology into orbit, which are able to move in proximity to existing satellites.
Pence said all of this informs the fact that "we have to have the capacity to protect our existing infrastructure in space".
Trump's vision, he said is that the United States builds a space force like the airforce was launched after World War II and then evolve it into ensuring that America remains as dominant in outer space militarily as it is here on Earth.
"That will be the project of the space force going forward. And there are a number of steps that will be launched in the very short term but that will ultimately lead to the launch of a Department of the United States Space Force in the next national Defense Authorization Act," Pence said.
In in 2015, China essentially stood up its own space force, he said.
"Russia, in the very same year, assigned a part of its aerospace division to a space force," the vice president said.
"First, we'll create a new unified combatant command, the United States Space Command, that will establish a dedicated chain of command for Space Force operations, ensure integration across the military and develop the doctrine, tactics and procedures of space warfighting in the 21st century," Pence said.
Secondly, the secretary of defense will create a new joint organisation, the Space Development Agency, that will break free from ineffective bureaucratic structures and provide the men and women of the space force, the cutting-edge warfighting capabilities that they need, faster and more effectively, he said.
With the help of the Congress, the United States Space Force will be created as the sixth branch of the armed forces.
"The time has come to write the next great chapter in the history of the armed forces of the United States, to turn the page to an evolution of our armed forces, to meet the challenges and opportunities on that limitless frontier," Pence said.