7 Facts About the United States Space Force

The flag for the United States Space Force.
The flag for the United States Space Force.
Public Domain

On December 20, 2019, Donald Trump signed the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, creating a sixth branch of the U.S. military: The United States Space Force (USSF). Reactions were mixed. Supporters heralded the dawn of a brave new era of space power, while critics called it an unnecessary and expensive campaign ploy that could provoke an arms race in space. Mostly, people posted memes.

The growing presence of humanity in space—or at least in high Earth orbit—has presented a whole host of potential problems and points of conflict. And the concept of protecting assets in space is nothing new. For decades, the U.S., Chinese, and Russian militaries have all placed significant resources into the defense of orbital assets and the militarization of space.

1. The United States Space Force isn’t the world’s first dedicated space force.

Russia has had variations of a dedicated space force since the early 1990s, beginning with the Russian Space Forces. In 2015, Russia merged its space force back into the Russian Air Force, creating the more cohesive and integrated Russian Aerospace Forces. China, meanwhile, established its PLA Strategic Support Force in 2015, which is responsible for space, cyber, and electronic warfare. While China and Russia both had dedicated and largely independent military arms for their space forces prior to the establishment of the USSF, the U.S. wasn’t entirely lagging behind. The USSF had actually existed within the United States Air Force since 1982, as the Air Force Space Command.

2. The United States Space Force won’t be fighting in space.

The USSF won’t be doing battle in space—at least not for now, and certainly not with power-suited space marines and boots on the moon. Todd Harrison, who directs the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told NPR: “It's not about putting military service members in space, it has nothing to do with NASA, it's not about protecting Earth from asteroids or aliens.” The Space Force is more about protecting assets in orbit, such as satellites that gather intelligence, aid communications, detect missile launches, and provide GPS targeting for missiles.

3. The United States Space Force is led by the Chief of Space Operations.

United States Air Force and United States Space Force General John W. RaymondDavid Grim, U.S. Air Force // Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The most senior officer in the Space Force is the Chief of Space Operations (CSO). In January 2020, General John W. Raymond was sworn in as the first CSO—and the first official member—of the Space Force. The 16,000 individuals assigned to the Space Force after Raymond’s appointment were all members of the former Air Force Space Command. Despite Trump’s description of space as a “war-fighting domain” and his calls for “American dominance in space,” General Raymond was quick to point out that the goal of the Space Force is to deter a conflict from extending into space, while adding that it was prepared to fight if needed.

4. The first United States Space Force doctrine seeks to define “Spacepower.”

In June 2020, the USSF published its first doctrine for space forces, entitled Spacepower [PDF]. It’s a slightly surreal read, with undertones of Starship Troopers (book or movie, take your pick) and subchapters covering everything from “War’s Enduring Nature” to “Space Warfighters” and the “Art of Space Warfare.” And while the doctrine assures the reader that the U.S. “desires a peaceful, secure, stable, and accessible space domain,” it doesn’t shy away from the fact that the Space Force is a military branch. For example: “Space mastery makes the military space community more lethal by enhancing the speed and focus of military spacepower.”

5. The united states Space Force seal looks like the Starfleet logo from Star Trek.

When the new Space Force seal was unveiled, social media had a lot of fun pointing out how similar it looked to that of Star Trek’s Starfleet Command. They are very similar, it’s true, but the Space Force seal was based on the existing Air Force Space Command logo, which dates back to 1982. The seal’s delta wing design, meanwhile, has been used by space organizations since 1961—five years before the first episode of Star Trek premiered.

6. The united states Space Force Motto is Semper Supra.

Combat utility uniform of the U.S. Space Force.United States Space Force, Public Domain // Wikimedia Commons

The Space Force motto, Semper Supra, means “Always Above.” According to the official Space Force Twitter account, the motto “represents [Space Force’s] role in establishing, maintaining, and preserving U.S. freedom of operations in the space domain.” For some people, that sounds gallant, striving, and reassuring. But it’s also possible to put an Orwellian spin on the Space Force motto, should one be feeling cynical about the ever-growing number of surveillance satellites. Seen in a more sinister light, “Always Above” does have a “we’re always watching you” kind of vibe.

7. The initial united states Space Force budget is just over $15 billion.

In February 2020, the Department of the Air Force released a $169 billion budget proposal for 2021. For the first time, the budget included funding for the fledgling Space Force, which had requested $15.4 billion. The Space Force budget included funding for missile warning satellites, next-generation GPS, and the development of a new tactical communications system. It also requested funding for the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) program, which seeks private companies—such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin—to launch U.S. military and spy satellites into orbit.

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

As pointed out by People, the coupon page breaks deals down by categories, like electronics, home & kitchen, and groceries (the coupons even work with SNAP benefits). Since most of the deals revolve around the essentials, it's easy to stock up on items like Cottonelle toilet paper, Tide Pods, Cascade dishwasher detergent, and a 50 pack of surgical masks whenever you're running low.

But the low prices don't just stop at necessities. If you’re looking for the best deal on headphones, all you have to do is go to the electronics coupon page and it will bring up a deal on these COWIN E7 PRO noise-canceling headphones, which are now $80, thanks to a $10 coupon you could have missed.

Alternatively, if you are looking for deals on specific brands, you can search for their coupons from the page. So if you've had your eye on the Homall S-Racer gaming chair, you’ll find there's currently a coupon that saves you 5 percent, thanks to a simple search.

To discover all the deals you have been missing out on, head over to the Amazon Coupons page.

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The Northern Lights Storms Are Getting Names—and You Can Offer Up Your Suggestions

A nameless northern lights show in Ylläs, Finland.
A nameless northern lights show in Ylläs, Finland.
Heikki Holstila, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

While all northern lights are spectacular, they’re not all spectacular in the same way. Aurora borealis, or “northern dawn,” occurs when electrons in the magnetic field surrounding Earth transfer energy to oxygen and nitrogen molecules in the atmosphere. The molecules then emit the excess energy as light particles, which create scintillating displays whose colors and shapes depend on many known and unknown factors [PDF]—type of molecule, amount of energy transferred, location in the magnetosphere, etc.

Though the “storms” are extremely distinct from each other, they haven’t been named in the past the way hurricanes and other storms are christened. That’s now changing, courtesy of a tourism organization called Visit Arctic Europe. As Travel + Leisure reports, the organization will now christen the strongest storms with Nordic names to make it easier to keep track of them.

“There are so many northern lights visible in Arctic Europe from autumn to early spring that we started giving them names the same way other storms are named. This way, they get their own identities and it’s easier to communicate about them,” Visit Arctic Europe’s program director Rauno Posio explained in a statement.

Scientists will be able to reference the names in their studies, much like they do with hurricanes. And if you’re a tourist hoping to check out other people’s footage of the specific sky show you just witnessed, searching by name on social media will likely turn up better results than a broad “#auroraborealis.”

Visit Arctic Europe has already given names to recent northern lights storms, including Freya, after the Norse goddess of love, beauty, and fertility, and Sampo, after “the miracle machine and magic mill in the Finnish national epic poem, ‘Kalevala.’” A few other monikers pay tribute to some of the organization’s resident “aurora hunters.”

But you don’t have to be a goddess or an aurora hunter in order to get in on the action. Anybody can submit a name (along with an optional explanation for your suggestion) through the “Naming Auroras” page here. It’s probably safe to assume that submissions related to Nordic history or culture have a better chance of being chosen, but there’s technically nothing to stop you from asking Visit Arctic Europe to name a northern lights show after your dog.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]