Less than two years from when President Trump announced the creation of the 6th major division of the United States Armed Forces, Space Force has launched its first commercial, a thirty-second ad uploaded to the U.S. Air Force and Space Force Recruiting YouTube page.
The ad features a young man staring up at the stars while a narrator opines, “Some people look to the stars and ask, ‘What if?’ Our job is to have an answer.”
A montage flashes images of uniformed personnel, rocket launches, and satellites, while the narration continues:
“We would have to imagine what will be imagined, plan for what’s possible while there’s still impossible. Maybe you weren’t put here just to ask the questions. Maybe you were put here to be the answer.”
A pitch to possible recruits, its final humdinger ends: “Maybe your purpose on this planet isn’t on this planet.”
Since it surged into the cultural zeitgeist in 2018, the U.S. Space Force has been the subject of countless memes, cartoons, and jokes. But behind its public-facing presentation, there is a deadly intensity and momentum. Scarcely over two months ago, the branch received its first offensive weapon, a Counter Communications System (CCS) that functions as a military satellite communications jammer.
GPS satellites gather intelligence, sniff out missile launches, and facilitate precise military hits. The development of satellite communications jammers is part of the new space race taking place between the United States, Russia, and China. Orbital and sub-orbital communication warfare between satellites is widely considered to be first major theater of military space offensives.
“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,” said Todd Harrison, Aerospace Security Project Director at the Center for Strategic & International Studies.
Upon signing the 2019 NDAA, which allocated $738 billion in defense spending, President Trump stated: “Space is the world’s newest war-fighting domain.”
However, it’s hard to say what future Space Force missions could eventually include. Right now the Pentagon is rerouting over 16,000 Air Force duty and civilian personnel to Space Force assignments. They’re learning the ins and outs of successful space launches from SpaceX. They’re still figuring out their official uniform, logo, and song.
The actual mechanics and long-term objectives of militarizing space is a murky topic in the already murky depths of the military-industrial complex.
In recent years, NASA considerably bulked up its commercial/PR image. It seems Space Force is coming out of the gate doing the same with its first commercial. And though it’s unlikely that the new Netflix show Space Force (starring Steve Carell) will have any more connection to the reality of its subject matter than Reno 911 did to law enforcement, it will certainly keep the new cosmic military fleet in the pop culture limelight.
Forged in the meme-happy, Netflix-friendly crucible of a divided nation beset by tumultuous culture wars, a global pandemic, and a geopolitical space race, it’s hard to predict what Space Force will look like in 10, 50, or 100 years. But one can be fairly certain it will pack a mean marketing punch.