The Space Force is starting its first graduate school program and, unlike other service branches, it’s partnering with a private university rather than starting from scratch.

In 2023, selected Space Force officers, civilians and other members of the military will join the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C., to study for a master’s degree in International Public Policy.

“We are very excited to be chosen by the U.S. Space Force for this opportunity and are looking forward to this partnership,” James B. Steinberg, dean of Johns Hopkins SAIS, said in a press release Nov. 1. “Participants in this program will be integral members of our school, working closely with our distinguished faculty, students, and contributing to our intellectual community.”

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Historically, the branches have offered college educational courses for senior military officers and Department of Defense civilians at service-run schools, starting with the U.S. Naval War College’s founding in 1884. But the Space Force’s announcement with Johns Hopkins marks a departure from that tradition by working with a private university to run its program.

Maj. Gen. Shawn Bratton, head of Space Training and Readiness Command, said in a news release that Guardians will have access to science, technology, engineering and math electives; expanded laboratory research; and more chances to work with the commercial space sector in the area.

The Space Force classes will take place at Johns Hopkins’ new campus at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue, formerly the Newseum building in the heart of Washington, D.C. The service wanted to have an academic program in the nation’s capital so students and their families would have “fewer [permanent change of station] moves, adding family stability, increasing quality of life, and providing a seamless transition to their follow-on assignment,” according to a news release.

The Space Force is currently working to transition some faculty members from Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, to the new program at Johns Hopkins sometime in 2023.

“To develop superior space capabilities and deliver warfighting solutions, we must deliberately grow our Guardians to think, act, and fight strategically with an understanding of how they fit into the larger ecosystem of the space community,” Katharine Kelley, deputy chief of Space Operations for Human Capital, said in a news release.

When the Space Force was stood up in 2019, the budget and plans did not include creating its own service academy or war college, unlike the other branches. Cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado can learn about the Space Force when joining and then commission as officers into the new service branch upon graduation, much like how those who study at the U.S. Naval Academy can become Marines.

Earlier this year, the Air Force Academy announced it had its first permanent professor who is a member of the Space Force. Interest in the new service branch has grown among the cadets.

In 2020, 9% of the student body — 88 cadets — commissioned into the Space Force upon graduation.

The following year, the Air Force Academy opened the first Space Force detachment at the school, allowing cadets to connect with active-duty Guardians to learn more about the service.

In 2021, the percentage of those who became officers in the Space Force upon graduation grew to 11%, or 115 cadets. The 2022 class graduated around 10%, roughly 100 cadets, into the Space Force.

— Thomas Novelly can be reached at thomas.novelly@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.

Related: Air Force Academy Will Have First Permanent Space Force Professor as More Cadets Become Guardians

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