A NASA astronaut will transfer into the U.S. Space Force later this month while onboard the International Space Station.
U.S. Air Force astronaut Col. Michael "Hopper" Hopkins is about to become the newest Space Force officer, a service official told Military.com on Monday. The news of the upcoming ceremony was first reported by Space News.
Gen. John "Jay" Raymond, chief of space operations, and NASA Administrator James Bridenstine are still working out the details of the upcoming event. According to Space News, Hopkins will be launching as part of SpaceX's Crew-1 Mission on board the Dragon spacecraft Nov. 14.
Together, the two organizations will "leverage this unique venue for the ceremony as a way to spotlight the decades-long partnership between the Defense Department and NASA," the Space Force official, who spoke on background to discuss matters in planning, told Military.com via email.
"For more than 60 years, men and women of the military services have helped fill the ranks of the astronaut corps -- Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard. Space Force, as the newest military service, is looking forward to contributing to this legacy."
Hopkins commissioned into the Air Force in 1992, and was assigned to Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, where he supported advanced space system technologies, according to his NASA biography. He became a test pilot working with C-17 Globemaster III and C-130 Hercules aircraft while with the 418th Flight Test Squadron out of Edwards Air Force Base, California.
In 2008, Hopkins was selected as a special assistant to the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. James Edward "Hoss" Cartwright, where he worked until he began training the following year as part of NASA's 20th astronaut class, his bio states.
He graduated from Astronaut Candidate Training in November 2011; two years later, Hopkins launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the ISS for Expedition 37/38. During the mission, he logged his first two spacewalks and completed "2,656 orbits of the Earth and traveled more than 70 million miles" over more than 160 days, NASA says.
Hopkins joins the growing ranks of the Space Force, which was signed into existence by President Donald Trump in December 2019.
Until a few weeks ago, the newest military branch under the Department of the Air Force had only 88 members, including Raymond, Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman, its top enlisted adviser, and 86 new lieutenants who graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in April.
Then in September, the Air Force began transferring 2,410 active-duty members within the space operations (13S) and space systems operations (1C6) career fields. Last month, the Space Force also initiated another higher-ranking member when Gen. David 'DT' Thompson assumed responsibilities as the vice chief of space operations for the Space Force.
-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.