HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The Space City is ready to live up to its name, this time with helping the newest military branch protect the nation's skies.
Space Force leader tours Johnson Space Center
On Friday, Space Force's chief of operations, Gen. John Raymond, toured the Johnson Space Center. In an interview only on 13, he talked about why he was there.
"We operate in the same domain," Raymond explained. "We share people. We have Space Force astronauts that are assigned to NASA. We help protect the International Space Station from colliding with pieces of debris."
Space Force formed less than three years ago. There's no physical location in Houston, but its members, known as Guardians, are in Houston.
Some of them work at JSC and monitor the ISS. NASA handles space exploration. Space Force is a military branch that provides space security to NASA, satellites and other objects Americans use all the time.
"If they're using a smart phone, they're using space," Raymond explained. "If they're getting the weather report off of that phone, they're using space. If they do electronic banking, they're using space. It's very important that demand is secure."
Houston Spaceport could be key to Space Force
Houston is known as the Space City. It's not just because of NASA.
There are more than 50 private aerospace companies nearby, and Space Force knows this.
"We're working hard to build those close partnerships," Raymond said. "Not just with NASA, not just with international partners, but also with commercial industry to leverage those technologies that are being developed."
Space Force will need aerospace tools and technology similar to NASA. Those items are being developed by private companies.
"There's a lot of interest," Dan Seal, Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership economic development executive director, said. "Absolutely. Chomping at the bit is a great way of saying it. Eager. There's excitement to work with the Space Force."
Seal said there aren't a lot of Space Force contracts with local companies yet. However, it said this could change.
Companies are expanding and moving to Houston. In weeks, the first business inside the new Houston Spaceport will open.
"Who knows what the future will bring, but we want to attract as much of that future military space mission here to Houston," Seal said. "We think it's a great fit."
Space Force's image in focus in its 3rd year
Space Force was founded in December 2019. Raymond said the first year was about building. The second was integrating the branch into the Department of Defense.
"This third year is to capitalize on the building and integration and continue to deliver great effect for our country," Raymond said.
It hasn't always been easy. The military branch got started under President Donald Trump.
Shortly after taking office, former Biden White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki appeared to mock Space Force by calling it "the plane of today" while addressing reporters in February 2021.
ABC13 asked Raymond about how Space Force can change Americans' perception.
"I'm not worried about perception," Raymond said. "We know exactly how important this service is to our country. We're focused on making sure we can deliver for our nation each and every day. This with the Space Force has been discussed for 30-something years."
Raymond added the Biden administration has been very supportive of the agency as it continues to develop.