Albuquerque has been named as one of six finalists to host the new U.S. Space Command, New Mexico’s congressional delegation announced late Thursday.

The command is responsible for U.S. military operations in space, and local proponents have pushed Albuquerque as a natural site to get the designation, citing its proximity to Kirtland Air Force Base and two other U.S. Air Force bases in the state.

The state’s Spaceport America also is seen as a driver in the discussion.

“I am encouraged that the U.S. Air Force recognizes the incredible potential that Albuquerque … has to build a successful Space Command,” Sen. Tom Udall said in a statement. “Albuquerque is not only the home of some of our nation’s top national security practitioners, but it is an incubator of new ideas with cutting-edge space research and innovation facilities.”

The other five finalists are: Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs (currently the home of Space Command); Patrick Air Force Base in Brevard County, Fla.; Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Neb.; Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala.; and Joint Base San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas.

A final decision is expected in early 2021.

The U.S. Space Force, created last year under President Donald Trump, is the first branch added to the nation’s military since the 1940s.

It will operate under the umbrella of the Air Force, which was expected to announce a headquarters for the Space Command late this year, but a new search commenced earlier this year.

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