US President Donald Trump has ordered the establishment of a US space command that will oversee the country’s military activities in space.
Mr Trump directed the US military to take the first steps to set up the command, starting with recommending officers to be nominated to lead it.
The command will serve alongside the military’s other functional commands that head operations in Europe, South America and other parts of the world, Vice President Mike Pence said on Tuesday.
It will be led by a four-star officer and take over space-related responsibilities previously assigned to the commander of US Strategic Command.
Mr Pence, who spoke about Mr Trump’s order at Cape Canaveral, Florida, said the announcement signalled a “new era of American national security in space.”
He noted that more than 18,000 military personnel already work in space operations for US national security purposes across all defence organisations.
The purpose of the space command in part will be to integrate those capabilities, he said.
The space command will be separate from Mr Trump’s plans for a so-called Space Force, an independent military branch that he announced in June.
Mr Pence said Mr Trump will sign a new space policy directive in the coming days that will lay out plans to create the Space Force, which will be the sixth branch of the US military after the Marines, the Navy, the Army, the Air Force and the Coast Guard.
The administration is working with Congress to set up the Space Force by the end of 2020, Mr Pence said.
Plans call for it to take over many of the military’s space-related projects that currently are the domain of the Air Force.
Mr Pence spoke in Florida ahead of a launch of a SpaceX rocket from the US space agency NASA’s facility there.
The launch however had to be postponed until Wednesday because of a technical problem.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was set to launch a navigation satellite system for the US military, the first national security mission for the company founded by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk.
The postponement came seven minutes before lift-off when the rocket’s onboard computer triggered an abort.