Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Patrick Air Force Base, both in Florida, were formally re-designated Dec. 9, 2020, as facilities central to the mission of the U.S. Space Force during a ceremony rich in symbolism that further confirmed the nation’s commitment to operating in and defending space.
Vice President Mike Pence announced the decision to shift the designation of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and Patrick Air Force Base to Patrick Space Force Base during a formal ceremony at Cape Canaveral.
“Today we make history with the first two installations in the history of the United States Space Force to bear the name of this new branch of the service,” Pence said during the ceremony before unveiling updated signs carrying the new names. “It is a great day for our military. It is a great day for Florida. It is a great day for America.”
Later in the day, during a meeting of the National Space Council, Pence again noted the new designations and the contribution of the Space Force, which marks the first anniversary of its founding Dec. 20.
“It’s extraordinary to think of the contribution the United States Space Force will make to the security of our nation and the perpetuation of our freedom,” Pence said.
“The Space Force is growing stronger by the day … We’ve made great progress; we evidenced that today in the dedication of Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and also Patrick Space Force Base,” he said.
While the re-designation affects the names only and falls short of officially making the facilities Space Force installations, senior Space Force and Air Force officials said the action is critical to establishing a distinct culture and identity for the Space Force.
“Today, we start a new era at both Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and Patrick Space Force Base aligning the installation names with their critical missions,” Chief of Space Operations, Gen. Jay Raymond said during his remarks at the ceremony, noting specifically the long-running accomplishments of the 45th Space Wing at the installation.
“Today their titles will reflect the space missions that the 45th Space Wing and its mission partners execute with precision, passion, and pride every day. Moving forward, we will integrate our service, elevating the power that space brings to the nation, the joint force, and our allies,” he said, referring to the facility as “hallowed ground.”
Despite the high profile of the Dec. 9 ceremony, Space Force officials emphasized that until final decisions are made relating to Space Force installations, the “jurisdiction and command” of both Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and Patrick Space Force Base “will remain under the Air Force until officially transferred at a future date to be determined.”
Officials emphasized the new designation will not affect current base operating support, funding, or current agreements at Patrick Space Force Station or Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
At the same time, a collection of senior officials who spoke at the ceremony highlighted the deep and trailblazing space history achieved at Cape Canaveral and Patrick Air Force Base and why those two installations are critical to the success of the Space Force.
“The sum of what started here and was reborn in the past four years lays the foundation of our giant leaps in space — back to the moon, the planets, and like Voyager I and II, further still,” Department of the Air Force Secretary Barbara M. Barrett said in her remarks at the ceremony.
“At the Space Force, our grand mission is to keep humanity safe, safe for all those who’ve made those small steps thus far, and all those steps yet untrod,” she said.
The history is indeed long and rich.
Cape Canaveral is where Alan Shepard began his mission in 1961 as the first American in space, riding in the Mercury “Freedom 7” capsule that launched from the facility. That spacecraft is now on display in the Smithsonian Museum. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins lifted off from the facility’s Launchpad 39B in 1969 on a mission that was the first to land humans on the moon and return them safely to earth.
More recently, the first Global Positioning System III satellite catapulted into space from Cape Canaveral. That crucial network of satellites forms the backbone of the modern-age global positioning, navigation, and timing system.
In addition to Pence, Barrett and Raymond, Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist attended the ceremony as did Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., and Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten who serves as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Col. Brande Walton, who commands the 45th Space Wing, said the change highlights both a new day and a continuation of the unit’s mission.
“While this renaming has changed signage across the installations, our mission remains the same, delivering assured access to space for the warfighter and our nation,” Walton said.