Is there such thing as a U.S. Space Force?

In Bruce Sterling’s recent novel The Zenith Angle – more of a techno-thriller (or bureaucracy-thriller) than science fiction, but shelved in the bookstore’s SF section because Sterling is best known for that genre – there is mention of something called the “Space Force,” which is supposed to be a branch of the U.S. Air Force. It’s not clear whether this is fictional. The novel is set in 2001 and years following, and most of the government agencies mentioned in it are definitely real ones. But I’ve never heard of a Space Force, and I can’t find anything by Googling. Does the Air Force have a “Space Force” branch?

There’s the USAF Space Command, whose mission is: “To defend the United States of America through the control and exploitation of space.”

And they’re led by Tom Corbett, Roger Manning and Astro.

And commanded by Major Matt Mason & his sidekick, Billy Blast-Off.

There is no U.S. Space Force. But almost since the beginning of the Air Force (1947), various generals and policymakers have used unofficial terms like “Aerospace Force” and “Space Force” to promote the idea that the U.S. should have a military presence in space, which of course it now has. Also, there was a struggle between the various branches of the armed forces as to who was going to handle missiles and space. Early on, the Army had the upper hand, but these days, it’s almost all Air Force. Sometimes people say “U.S. Aerospace Force” to try to cement the policy of giving the Air Force basic repsonsibility for military space activities.