Air Force Space Command

Air Force Space Command

Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) is a major command of the United States Air Force. AFSPC is headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base Colorado. Its current commander is General C. Robert "Bob" Kehler.

Approximately 40,000 people, including 25,400 active-duty military and civilians, and 14,000 contractor employees, combine to perform AFSPC missions. Those 25,400 active-duty personnel are divided into approximately 7,100 military employees and 18,300 civilian employees, although their missions overlap.

AFSPC contributes to United States deterrence through its intercontinental ballistic missile force and plays a vital role tying together and supporting the U.S. military worldwide through the use of many different types of satellites and other space operations.

On October 6, 2008, it was announced that the ballistic missile mission will be transferred to a new, yet-to-be named USAF strategic command. At the same time, it was also announced that AFSPC will gain the cyber warfare mission.


AFSPC describes its mission as being, "To Deliver Space and Missile capabilities to America and its warfighting Commands. AFSPC claims its activities make space reliable to United States warfighters (i.e. forces personnel) by assuring their access to space. In addition, AFSPC believes its ICBM forces deter adversaries contemplating the use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

AFSPC has four primary mission areas:

  • Space forces support involves launching satellites and other high-value payloads into space using a variety of expendable launch vehicles and operating those satellites once in the medium of space.
  • Space control ensures friendly use of space through the conduct of counterspace operations encompassing surveillance, negation, and protection.
  • Force enhancement provides weather, communications, intelligence, missile warning, and navigation. Force enhancement is support to the warfighter.
  • Force application involves maintaining and operating a rapid response, land-based ICBM force as the Air Force's only on-alert strategic deterrent.


Missile warning and space operations were combined to form Air Force Space Command in 1982. During the Cold War, space operations focused on missile warning, and command and control for national leadership. In 1991, Operation Desert Storm provided emphasis for the command's new focus on support to the warfighter. ICBM forces were merged into AFSPC in 1993.

Possible New Mission

A recent Pentagon report suggested that the command be renamed the Air Force Strategic Command so that it could be in charge of all nuclear weapons, not just ICBMs. The report also suggested that the Air Force place all nuclear airplanes in a numbered air force. This air force would in turn be controlled by the new command. The Air Force rejected this recommendation on October 6, 2008, and instead decided to create a new, yet-to-be-named USAF strategic command that would carry out the ICBM and bomber missions.


Numbered Air Forces

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

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.

Twentieth Air Force

The Twentieth Air Force, headquartered at Francis E. Warren AFB, Wyoming, maintains AFSPC's ICBM weapon systems in support of U.S. Strategic Command war plans. 20AF will be transferred to a new USAF strategic command in the near future.

Twenty-fourth Air Force

The Twenty-fourth Air Force, with the cyber warfare mission, will be activated under AFSPC in the near future, at a yet-to-be determined base.

Direct Reporting Units

AFSPC is the major command providing space forces and trained ICBM 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 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 and Defense Support 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.

Space Innovation and Development Center

The Space Innovation and Development Center (SIDC) at Schriever AFB, Colorado is also part of the command. The center plays a major role in fully integrating space systems into the operational Air Force. Its force enhancement mission looks at ways to use space systems to support warfighters in the areas of navigation, weather, intelligence, communications and theater ballistic missile warning, and how these apply to theater operations.


The AFSPC headquarters is a major unit located at Peterson AFB, Colorado. There are 9 AFSPC host bases:

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. Maintaining space superiority is an emerging capability required to protect our space assets. With a readiness rate above 99 percent, America's ICBM team plays a critical role in maintaining world peace and ensuring the nation's safety and security.



Launch Vehicles

Space Situational Awareness

Ballistic Missile Warning Radars

Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles

Ballistic Missile Early Warning System, PAVE PAWS, and PARCS radars. The , phased-array and mechanical radars provide primary space surveillance coverage.

The ICBM force (apart from the SLBMs operated by the US Navy) consists of the Minuteman III missiles that provide a critical component of America's on-alert strategic forces. More than 500 ICBMs are currently on alert in reinforced concrete launch facilities beneath the Great Plains.

AFSPC is the Air Force's largest operator of UH-1N and HH-1H Huey helicopters, responsible for missile operations support and security.

In popular culture

In the popular TV series Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis, the Stargate Program is run by the Air Force Space Command. (Stargate Command is a sub-command under the Space Command.) The AF Space Command Patch was worn on the uniform of personnel aboard the Prometheus, Earth's first operational deep space battle cruiser.

See also


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