The Space Force has opened 2022 applications to allow soldiers, sailors and Marines to transfer into the newest military branch, but the number of spots available will be sharply reduced this year.
In a message posted on Reddit last week, the authenticity of which was verified by a department spokesman, Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond, the service's top officer, said that only 243 slots -- 29 officer and 214 enlisted -- will be available.
"I can't thank you enough for volunteering to transfer into the Space Force," Raymond said in his message. "Your skills, dedication, and daily contributions are critical to accomplishing our mission -- protecting U.S. and allied interests in space to ensure our warfighting partners have the space capabilities they need to successfully carry out their missions."
This year's transfer quota is a stark departure from last year, when 720 members of other services moved over to the Space Force. Nearly 4,000 troops applied to move to the new service in 2021.
But some experts believe that having fewer spots open for transfers could indicate there is waning interest from troops.
Robert Farley, a professor at the University of Kentucky who researches national security and intelligence with a focus on the Space Force, said the creation of the service in late 2019 brought out a desire to join something that was brand new, but added that excitement can fade.
"Every cohort after the first cohort is going to be less enthusiastic about joining the Space Force, because the enthusiastic people try to transfer first," Farley said.
The Space Force immediately began looking for ways to increase its ranks in its early days, getting a lot of interest from the Army's existing space and satellite units, Farley said.
"In the Army, there was a significant amount of interest from their space personnel in becoming a part of the Space Force," he said. "A concern they expressed was that the Space Force was going to become Air Force-like over time, and they wanted to get in on the ground floor."
In addition to individual transfers, the Space Force has been picking up entire satellite units from other branches of the military.
Last year, the Pentagon announced that 11 Army units and four Navy units would be transferred to the Space Force, consisting of nearly 600 military personnel and civilian employees.
Many of those transfers are taking place this year due to Congress' delay in passing last year's budget.
The Naval Satellite Operations Center -- NAVSOC -- at Naval Base Ventura County in Mugu, California, was placed under the Space Force's Space Delta 8 earlier this month, bringing in nearly 500 new military and civilian personnel, as well as 13 of its satellites.
Raymond said in his message they "expect the transfer of the Army SATCOM [satellite communication] missions, and the associated 200 civilians and 350 soldiers to occur in mid-August as well."
The Space Force currently has around 7,000 active-duty Guardians.
"This will mark the first time all SATCOM responsibilities are united under a single service," Raymond said in his message. "To our new teammates from the Navy and Army, we are excited to have you on the Space Force team and look forward to furthering the critical missions you conduct each and every day."
The Space Force began accepting interservice transfers June 15; the application window closes June 30.
-- Thomas Novelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.