WASHINGTON — The U.S. Space Force is consolidating oversight of space launch activities under a two-star general who will have broad responsibilities for the procurement of launch services and for the operations of the military’s launch ranges.

The Space Force plans to establish a Space Systems Command this summer in Los Angeles that will absorb the responsibilities of the Space and Missile Systems Center. The command will be led by a three-star general and a two-star deputy commander who will be in charge of launch activities. 

The office of the deputy commander “becomes a one-stop shop for launch,” Lt. Gen. John Thompson, head of the Space and Missile Systems Center, told SpaceNews.

The procurement of launch services today is managed by SMC’s launch enterprise which reports to SMC’s one-star deputy commander. 

Under the new structure, the two-star SSC deputy commander also will be “program executive officer for assured access to space,” Thompson said. 

The same office will oversee procurement of launch services and space launch operations at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida; and at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The launch units at both ranges currently report to the Space Operations Command in Colorado Springs. 

“This gives us is the opportunity to focus on launch like we haven’t been able to do for a number of years,” he said. “You basically have the entire launch lifecycle underneath the deputy commander of the Space Systems Command.”

“Dual hatting” the Space Systems Command deputy commander as the officer in charge of assured access to space is “one of the most interesting parts of the SSC,” Thompson said. 

“The benefits are just really tremendous,” he added. “And it puts it all under one leader of sufficient rank to be able to orchestrate that enterprise and also speak on it publicly, and with our major stakeholders throughout the department, in the interagency, and on Capitol Hill.”

The current Space Force space launch wings are being renamed under the new plan. The 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg will be Space Launch Delta 30. The 45th Space Wing at Patrick Space Force Base, Florida, will be Space Launch Delta 45.

The commander of Space Delta 45, Brig. Gen. Stephen Purdy, also be the director of the Eastern Range, the SSC operations director and the acquisition lead for the “range of the future,” an initiative to modernize space launch ranges. 

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...