US Space Force, youngest military branch, turns 3: Exclusive behind-the-scenes look

The youngest branch of the military, the U.S. Space Force, turns three-years-old on Tuesday. While the smallest in terms of service members, their mission continues to grow on Florida's Space Coast.

Once known as the New Frontier, it is now part of our daily lives. From GPS, ATMs, cell phones, gas pumps, traffic lights, power grids and more. There’s no such thing as a day without space operations – you just don’t see them.

"Everything we do in some form is tied to space capabilities," said Capt. Wally Basraoui of the US Space Force. "So it’s our job to make sure that they’re all protected."

Space is a domain without borders. So the Space Force works to defend the United States both on Earth and outside the atmosphere. The mission includes tracking satellites, missile detection and preventing cyberattacks. Here on the ground at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, several branches support launch operations.

"We monitor and work with the SpaceX and ULA employees throughout a launch campaign," Basraoui said. 

A primary responsibility is safety – that means working with the Coast Guard to monitor the waterways.

"We work hand in hand with the Space Force in here with the sea surveillance officers and the surveillance control officer to alert them of any vessels in identified hazard areas," said Chief James Boguslawski of the U.S. Coast Guard. 

The Space Force Station is also home to weather operations, which includes meteorologists and members of the U.S. Air Force.

"This is the most densely populated area of weather equipment in the world," said Capt. Gregg McCambley of the U.S. Air Force. "So we really want to make sure that the rockets are safe when they make their way up through the atmosphere and any folks that we might have on it."

The Space Force members known as Guardians will gather in the control room for liftoff.

"Unlike the range where they’re focused more on safety, our focus is primarily on the pad itself and the launch vehicle to make sure that it’s ready to be launched," Basraoui said. 

Most of the Guardians have a background in engineering and science. First Lt. Paolo Hora was a computer science major and like many of his peers, was in the Air Force before transferring to the Space Force." 

As a Space Operator we go training for six to nine months in California to learn about space operations, to learn about what we are getting into," Hora said. 

That can include virtual reality simulators where they learn to control satellites.

"We love what we do and we’re happy to do it," Basraoui said. "Protecting our National Security. We have a lot of assets in space and a lot of times what we do is really kind of a hidden mission that the public doesn’t get to see overall."

With 8400 active military members and growing, the sky is not the limit anymore, hence their motto "Semper Supra" – Always Above.