PENTAGON --- The United States military is launching next week its first new combatant command in more than a decade.
Vice President Mike Pence and Pentagon officials told the National Space Council Tuesday the U.S. Space Command will officially be up and running Aug. 29.
The U.S. military has created a command since the U.S. Cyber Command was established in 2009. The Defense Department currently has 10 combatant commands, and each have either a geographic or functional mission for military operations.
Air Force Gen. John Raymond has been confirmed by the Senate as the command's first leader.
Creation of the command is seen by some officials as a likely step toward the creation of a space force as a separate military entity.
"The United States Space Force will ensure that our nation is prepared to defend our people, defend our interests, and to defend our values in the vast expanse of space and here on Earth with the technologies that will support our common defense for the vast reaches of outer space," Pence said.
Pence said the future Space Force still needs congressional funding and authority, but he said he expects that to happen soon.
The launch of the Space Command will accelerate what has been a decades-long effort to reorganize and improve the military's technological capabilities in space, which at times have gotten less attention as the Air Force has focused on warplanes and other combat priorities.
The military's role in space has been under scrutiny because the U.S. increasingly is reliant on orbiting satellites that are difficult to protect. Satellites provide communications, navigation, intelligence and other services vital to the military and the national economy.
Over the past year, the issue gained urgency amid growing competition and threats from adversary nations.
The U.S. military previously had a Space Command, but it was dissolved in 2002, and its functions were turned over to a reorganized U.S. Strategic Command. That command's primary mission remains deterrence against global threats, including maintaining the U.S. military's nuclear arsenal.