WASHINGTON — U.S. Army Gen. James Dickinson this week will take the helm as commander of U.S. Space Command. He will be the first Army officer to lead the military’s unified combatant command for space operations.

President Trump nominated Dickinson for Space Command’s top post in June. The Senate Armed Services Committee approved his nomination and he was confirmed by the full Senate on Aug. 6 by a voice vote.

Dickinson will be sworn in at a change-of-command ceremony scheduled for Aug. 20 at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. On the same day, Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck will take the oath as commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command. VanHerck succeeds Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy who is retiring from active duty

Dickinson takes over for Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, who since December has served in dual roles as head of Space Command and as chief of space operations of the U.S. Space Force. Raymond will continue to serve as head of the Space Force.

In December 2019 Dickinson became deputy commander of Space Command. Previously he was the commander of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command.

U.S. Space Command was first stood up in 1985. It was disestablished in 2002 and its functions were absorbed by U.S. Strategic Command in order to free up resources to create Northern Command to oversee homeland defense.

Trump in December 2018 signed a memorandum re-establishing Space Command as the military’s 11th unified combatant command. The command was officially reactivated Aug. 29, 2019, in a White House ceremony.

Space Command is currently headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base. The Air Force in May launched an open bidding process to select a permanent location for the headquarters. Communities from 26 states have submitted bids and the Air Force said it will announce a decision in January 2021.

Only U.S. Air Force officers up until now have led Space Command, a reflection of the Air Force being in charge of the military’s space capabilities. That changed in December 2019 when Congress created the Space Force as a separate military service.

Like the other unified commands, Space Command uses capabilities and personnel provided by all branches of the military. Although the Space Force will be the primary service supporting Space Command, the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Navy also assign units to the command.

Dickinson and other senior leaders have pointed out that ground forces are the military’s largest consumers of space-based technologies. A typical Army combat brigade of 4,000 soldiers deploys with more than 2,500 pieces of space enabled equipment used for communications, navigation, early warning and other functions.

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...