Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter sees a variety of missions for the Pentagon’s new, secretive space center — and that includes fighting the Islamic State.

The Pentagon chief said Thursday that the new Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center established by the Defense Department last fall has a role not only in preparing for potential conflicts against rival countries, but in counterterrorism. The center was created after a years-long debate to integrate space operations with the workings of conventional military units and intelligence agencies.

Carter visited the center along with other senior defense officials and praised its potential. Most public discussion about the center has focused on the “war games” it carries out to prepare for conflict with adversaries such as Russia and China, but the Pentagon chief said the center is doing more than that.

“I’ll say that in addition to war-gaming, they’re doing real-world, minute-by-minute, no-kidding operations,” Carter said. “We need them to work right now on problems of space’s role in conflict — first of all, because we are in conflicts today. I’ll just remind you that we are in the counter-[Islamic State] fight, and I have instructed our space community to join the fight, to figure out what we can do to contribute.”

Carter did not elaborate, likely due to the highly classified nature of the center’s operations. But his comments highlight aspects of its work. The center — known in the military as the “JICSpOC” — includes some officials from the National Reconnaissance Office, which operates the nation’s spy satellites and works closely with the National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence agencies. Navy Adm. Cecil D. Haney, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, has said previously that “violent extremist organizations” have accessed space-based technologies to encrypt their communications.

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