WASHINGTON — More than 8,500 active-duty airmen applied to join the U.S. Space Force during the month of May, the service announced on June 9.

Applicants include a mix of officers and enlisted personnel from 13 career fields.

The number of applicants is larger than what the Space Force had projected. Officials said they were anticipating about 7,000 would volunteer to give up their commission in the Air Force and transfer to the U.S. Space Force.

The response reflects the enthusiasm in the ranks about the opportunity to serve in the newest branch of the military, said Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, chief of space operations of the U.S. Space Force. These men and women “made the bold decision to volunteer to join the U.S. Space Force and defend the ultimate high ground,” he said in a statement.

Approximately 16,000 military and civilians from the former U.S. Air Force Space Command are now assigned to the Space Force. The transfer process will officially commission or enlist military members into the Space Force.

Not all applicants will be accepted, however. The Space Force is reviewing transfer applications and expects that approximately 6,000 of the 8,500 will be selected for transfer.

All volunteers will receive a notification in July explaining the next steps in the process.

For members in space-focused career fields, transfers to the Space Force will begin Sept. 1. For volunteers from other career fields, evaluation panels known as “transfer boards” will be scheduled between July and November. Since the boarding and selection process will take additional time, these transfers won’t happen until February 2021.

Airmen in space-focused career fields who decline to transfer into the Space Force will receive assistance in examining other options to transition to non-space jobs in the Air Force, go to the reserve components or apply for separation or retirement.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...