The Space Force on Friday is opening its second regional headquarters as part of U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida.

U.S. Space Forces—Central will oversee military space operations in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, just as its Air Force counterpart plans air ops in the region. The change is intended to give space a bigger seat at the table during those joint discussions than it had as part of the Air Force.

Led by Col. Christopher Putman, the 28-person staff will “play a significant role in supporting CENTCOM’s growing need for space-based capabilities such as satellite navigation, communications and missile warnings,” the command said in a release Wednesday.

“SPACECENT’s presence ... enhances CENTCOM’s ability to promote security and regional stability, while also advancing U.S. partnerships in the region throughout the space domain,” the command said.

Putman’s previous postings include a stint as commander of the 12th Space Warning Squadron at Thule Air Base, Greenland. The unit operates ballistic missile-alert and -defense systems, along with other spacecraft and debris in orbit.

CENTCOM in early 2020 was home to one of the highest-profile uses of military space assets in a combat zone so far. The Space Force — which had spun off from the Air Force just two weeks earlier — revealed it had used the Space-Based Infrared System, a constellation of satellites that constantly watches the Earth’s surface for missile launches, to alert American troops that Iran had fired more than a dozen missiles at their base in Iraq on Jan. 7, 2020.

No one died in the attack; officials credited the 2nd Space Warning Squadron at Buckley Space Force Base, Colorado, with helping to save lives. More than 100 people were treated for traumatic brain injuries.

“The enemy knows we depend on space, and so they’re looking for ways to take it from us,” Maj. Gen. Deanna Burt, a top ops official in the Space Force, previously told C4ISRNET.

The organization’s launch in Florida comes shortly after the service inaugurated its first component command at U.S. Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii on Nov. 22.

The Space Force organizes, trains and equips troops to operate and maintain space systems, from satellites to rocket launch facilities. It then provides those resources to a combatant command through its respective component, like it will do for CENTCOM through Space Forces—Central. Leaders within the combatant commands then execute daily missions using those available resources.

That’s different from U.S. Space Command, which handles orbital operations that affect the military at large instead of supporting particular missions, among other similar units. Critics argue the organizations may quickly become redundant.

U.S. European Command is next in line for its own space component command, the Space Force’s chief of space operations, Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, said earlier this year. It’s unclear when that will be finalized, as budgetary and operational priorities shift.

Rachel Cohen is the editor of Air Force Times. She joined the publication as its senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), Air and Space Forces Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy and elsewhere.

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