Florida won’t be home to the U.S. Space Command after the Air Force plans to announce the Army’s Redstone Arsenal in Alabama will host the 11th unified combatant command over the favored base in Colorado.
Brevard County’s Patrick Space Force Base was still in the running in late November to host the U.S. Space Command after Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Air Force John Henderson sent letters to six locations notifying local governments that they are moving onto the next phase in the selection process, however, Air Force officials have confirmed the command will go to Alabama.
While Patrick was the base tied to Florida’s nomination, Florida’s Space Coast Economic Development Commission said in a news release the proposed site would have been based at the Space Coast Regional Airport/Spaceport in Titusville.
Not to be confused with the U.S. Space Force, the branch under the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Space Command, oversees national security missions in space, many of which already launch from Florida’s Space Coast. The U.S. Space Command was previously established in 1985 to coordinate the use of outer space by the branches of the U.S. military but later disbanded. In 2019, it was established as the 11th combatant command.
Redstone, near Huntsville, Alabama, is home to NASA’s Marshall Spaceflight Center. The NASA center is where the agency has developed its propulsion system since the earliest test flights of U.S. rockets. The Army facility also hosts the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, space operations and missile defense, research, development, test and engineering as well as intelligence and homeland defense, according to a news release.
Republican U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, of Alabama, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and defense subcommittee, has been among the strongest advocates for Alabama to host USSPACECOM.
“This long-awaited decision by the Air Force is a true testament to all that Alabama has to offer. Huntsville is the right pick for a host of reasons – our skilled workforce, proximity to supporting space entities, cost-effectiveness, and quality of life, among other things,” Shelby said in a statement. “I am thrilled that the Air Force has chosen Redstone and look forward to the vast economic impact this will have on Alabama and the benefits this will bring to the Air Force.”
Redstone Arsenal senior ranking officer and commanding general of Army Materiel Command Gen. Ed Daly said the move would bring more than 1,400 service members to the Madison County-area base.
“Redstone Arsenal leadership remains committed to working with local community and state leaders to invest in roads and other critical infrastructure, continued access to quality education at all levels, including school of choice for military families residing on the installation,” Daly said in a statement.
The move isn’t set in stone until likely spring 2023 following an environmental impact analysis for the new headquarters facility in Alabama. In the meantime, Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, thought to be the frontrunner candidate, will remain the temporary home of USSSPACECOM until the permanent headquarters is ready.
Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico; the Army’s Redstone Arsenal, Alabama; Joint Base San Antonio, Texas; and Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska were also among the six finalists.
During the final phase, the Air Force conducted both virtual and in person site visits at all six locations late last year.
Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett made the announcement selecting Redstone Wednesday afternoon.
“Huntsville compared favorably across more of these factors than any other community, providing a large, qualified workforce, quality schools, superior infrastructure capacity, and low initial and recurring costs,” the Air Force said in a statement. “Additionally, Redstone Arsenal offered a facility to support the headquarters, at no cost, while the permanent facility is being constructed.”
The Air Force said Florida, along with the other candidates, will remain backups for alternative locations.
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