US President Donald Trump's administration has announced an ambitious plan to usher in a new Space Force as the sixth branch of the military by 2020
The proposal was, however, scorned by opponents and may struggle to get lift-off in a divided Congress.
Trump has strongly championed the idea of creating a space-focused military service with the same stature as the Air Force and the Army, turning his dreams of a "Space Force" into a rallying cry for supporters at political events.
His 2020 re-election campaign sent a fundraising email on Thursday asking supporters to vote on their favourite Space Force logo for future Trump campaign merchandise, offering a choice of six.
US Vice President Mike Pence, in an address at the Pentagon, described the Space Force as "an idea whose time has come."
The Space Force would be responsible for a range of crucial space-based US military capabilities, which include everything from satellites enabling the Global Positioning System (GPS) to sensors that help track missile launches.
But critics view its creation as an unnecessary and expensive bureaucratic endeavour, a vanity project that simply strips away work already being done effectively by services like the Air Force.
Democratic Senator Brian Schatz, who is on the Defence Appropriations subcommittee, said the Space Force was a "dumb idea."
"Although 'Space Force' won't happen, it's dangerous to have a leader who cannot be talked out of crazy ideas," Schatz said on Twitter.
Democratic Senator Bill Nelson has said such a move would "rip the Air Force apart." Senator Bernie Sanders said via Twitter "maybe, just maybe" the government should guarantee healthcare "before we start spending billions to militarise outer space."
Although Pentagon leaders, including US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, once opposed the idea of a Space Force, they lined up on Thursday to offer their support.
A Pentagon report included interim steps toward the creation of such an organisation. A unified combatant command known as the US Space Command would be formed by the end of 2018, according to a copy.
One of the arguments in favour of devoting more resources to a Space Force is that American rivals like Russia and China appear increasingly ready to strike US space-based capabilities in the event of a conflict.
"It is becoming a contested war fighting domain and we have to adapt to that reality," Mattis said.
The US is a member of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which bars the stationing of weapons of mass destruction in space and only allows for the use of the moon and other celestial bodies for peaceful purposes.
© PAA 2018