ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The U.S. Air Force has begun construction on a facility at Kirtland Air Force Base that officials say will play a role in the proposed space defense force.
The Air Force Research Laboratory’s $12.8 million Space Control Laboratory will consolidate efforts now being conducted in six different facilities on the New Mexico base, the Albuquerque Journal reports.
President Donald Trump has proposed creating a new U.S. Space Force — a plan that has hit widespread resistance on Capitol Hill. However, U.S. military bases have already begun research into areas like space-based intelligence, space surveillance and defensive space control.
The House Armed Services Committee will debate a new military branch for space as part of the 2020 defense policy bill.
The new facility will include office and lab space for 65 civilian and military contractors. It will contain a 5,000 square-foot (1,524 square-meter) laboratory space and more than 5,000 square feet (1,524 square meters) of secure office, laboratory and meeting space.
The new laboratory will study space warfighting technology, and house specialized labs and equipment.
"Space is now a war-fighting domain," said Air Force Col. Eric Felt, director of the Space Vehicles Directorate at the base. The Space Vehicles Directorate helps the Air Force with space technology research. It also develops technologies to use in space.
"If our adversaries attempt to counter us in that domain, we need to have the capabilities and the tools for our nation to counter that," Felt said.
At a groundbreaking ceremony at the base on Thursday, Felt said the new facility will help in that effort.
Brian Engberg, the chief of the space control technologies branch of Air Force Research Laboratory's Spacecraft Components Division said researchers would address threats from other countries and from space like asteroids.
"Every satellite that we have up there needs to be resilient," Felt said. "It needs to be there when we need it. If we happen to be in a conflict with a peer competitor, our satellites have to have the defense capabilities when we need them the most."
Construction of the facility is expected to be completed in December 2020.