The U.S. Space Force has a new leader.
On Thursday (Sept. 29), the Senate unanimously confirmed Lt. Gen. B. Chance Saltzman as chief of space operations for the Space Force. Saltzman takes over from Gen. John "Jay" Raymond, who had led the nation's newest military branch since its inception in December 2019.
Raymond will retire, ending a 38-year military career, according to Space News (opens in new tab).
Saltzman, who entered the military in 1991, "has deep operational experience with missile and space systems as a Minuteman III launch officer and as a satellite operator for the National Reconnaissance Office," Space Force officials wrote in July (opens in new tab), shortly after President Joe Biden nominated him for the Space Force's top post. "He also served as the first chief of combat plans for the Joint Space Operations Center, and later, as chief of combat operations."
Since August 2020, Saltzman had served as deputy chief of space operations for operations, cyber and nuclear. That's a pretty big job; in it, Saltzman had "overall responsibility for operations, intelligence, sustainment, cyber and nuclear operations for the Space Force," Space Force officials wrote.
The Space Force is the first new U.S. military branch since the Air Force, which was created in 1947. The Space Force is officially part of the Air Force, much as the Marine Corps is part of the U.S. Navy.
Members of the Space Force, called guardians, are trained to "conduct global space operations that enhance the way our joint and coalition forces fight, while also offering decision-makers military options to achieve national objectives," according to the service's mission statement (opens in new tab).
The Space Force's work is increasingly important these days, U.S. officials have said, stressing that the final frontier is becoming a highly contested domain. Russia and China are working hard, they say, to challenge the United States' longtime status as the world's greatest space power.
Mike Wall is the author of "Out There (opens in new tab)" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).