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Redstone Arsenal's Gate 9.
Redstone Arsenal's Gate 9. (TNS)

The Air Force has chosen Alabama’s Redstone Arsenal to house the 1,400-member U.S. Space Command Headquarters, service and state officials said Wednesday.

Outgoing Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett selected Redstone this month “as the preferred location” for SPACECOM, Air Force officials said. Service officials told Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey of their decision in a phone call Wednesday morning, Ivey’s office said in a statement.

“I couldn’t be more pleased to learn that Alabama will be the new home to the United States Space Command!” Ivey said in the statement. “The bottom line is simple, the Redstone region is the most natural choice to become home to such an important mission for our country.”

Redstone, an Army installation just outside Huntsville, was named one of six finalists for the headquarters in November after the Air Force conducted two searches for a permanent home for the Pentagon’s newest combatant command, which is charged with overseeing and controlling the U.S. military’s myriad space-based infrastructure and operations. The command has been housed temporarily at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., since it was established in August 2019.

The Air Force confirmed Redstone’s selection Wednesday. The decision is contingent on a required environmental impact study and could be finalized by 2023, the Air Force said in a statement.

Ivey said the Huntsville region’s reputation for supporting the military and its vast history of involvement in space operations was a key factor in the final pitch last month to Air Force officials to choose Redstone, according to her office.

“This combination only enhances the outstanding relationships we have with the 65 diverse federal agencies on Redstone Arsenal, not to mention the growing presence of the FBI and other federal installations,” she said in the statement.

Redstone beat out Peterson AFB, one of the other announced finalists, which has long hosted the military’s top space operations and was seen as the front-runner to be named the permanent home for SPACECOM.

But Peterson is expected to retain Space Command headquarters for several years “until the permanent location is ready to support the mission.”

Air Force officials have said previously the service estimated it could take some six years to build the facilities necessary to house U.S. Space Command. The process was estimated to cost about $1 billion.

Huntsville is known as Rocket City, largely because Wernher von Brohn and other rocketeers settled in the city in the 1950s to help develop the U.S. space and rockets program, according to a 2018 report by The Associated Press.

The city is still home to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center on Redstone Arsenal, responsible for civilian rocketry and spacecraft propulsion research. Huntsville is also home to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, a space exploration museum, perhaps best known as the home of Space Camp.

Air Force officials said Wednesday that Barrett, who is set to leave her position Jan. 19, considered several factors in reaching her decision, including installations’ infrastructure capacity, support from the community and costs to the Defense Department.

“Huntsville compared favorably across more of these factors than any other community, providing a large, qualified workforce, quality schools, superior infrastructure capacity, and low initial and recurring costs,” according to the Air Force statement.

Space Command’s establishment in 2019 was actually a re-establishment of the combatant command, after the Pentagon shuttered it in 2002 as part of the post-9/11 government restructuring. It was established just months before the newest military branch, U.S. Space Force, was founded.

Under Defense Department structure, the military services — in this case, the Space Force — are responsible for training and equipping troops who then operate under the leadership and control of a combatant command— in this case, the Space Command. Space Force, as it grows, is expected to provide the bulk of the troops assigned to Space Command, but the other military services will also provide some troops to the command, officials have said.

Space Command is led by four-star Army Gen. James Dickinson.

Space Force, like all military services, is headquartered at the Pentagon, where it will remain. It is led by Gen. Jay Raymond, the chief of space operations.

dickstein.corey@stripes.com Twitter: @CDicksteinDC

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