Robert Wray ’06 Joins the Space Force


Robert Wray ’06 grew up like many children, spellbound by space missions and all their wonder. Year after year, shuttles ascended brightly into the cosmos, reminding us of John F. Kennedy’s vision — that maybe, in time, our limits in space could be pushed through. But as years passed and NASA funding was cut, frequent American countdowns became memories from another era.

Now, Wray and others like him have a chance to embark on a new mission.

Wray has joined the U.S. Space Force, a branch of the armed forces created in late 2019 — the first new branch since the Air Force was formed in 1947. “In essence, the Space Force is like the Navy, but for space,” Wray says. “It trains people on how to operate in and defend U.S. interests in space.”

The goal is to expand Space Force to 16,000 members in the next few years. “I hope I can help shape space policy and the U.S. actions in space going forward,” he says. “Space is a key enabler of our economy and our general way of life.”

Wray, who double majored in history and political science, was in the Air Force before his move to the Space Force (his career field in the Air Force was space operations). He also works at the U.S. State Department, in the Office of Emerging Security Challenges, in a role that integrates diplomatic initiatives for military de-escalation in space. Examples, he says, are “organizing space security dialogues between the State Department and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with allies and partners, to advocate for international support for U.S. policies” and “validating treaty compliance, especially for treaties that have a provision limiting military activity.”

Wray considered a future in the military early on, applying for a ROTC scholarship on September 10, 2001. The world literally changed the next day. Being in New York City post–9-11, aware of the terror threats and seeing Ground Zero, further confirmed for him the path he had chosen. “It cemented my desire to contribute and give to something bigger,” he says.

But Wray isn’t just thinking about what’s up there. He’s learned during his career that protecting space, and the technology it assists, allows everyday earthbound tasks to move forward, from paying at the pump to making investments on the New York Stock Exchange.

Commissioned by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on October 22, Wray took the next step in his space journey as a major in the Space Force. It’s certainly a long way from growing up in Rhode Island, enjoying Star Trek.

But this isn’t the final frontier. For Wray, it’s a new beginning.

Eric Butterman has written for many publications, including Glamour and Men’s Journal. You can reach him at