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To Boldy Go...

31st Annual Space Symposium Ready to Launch

Commercial space industry panelists discuss innovation in satellite technology.

Commercial space industry panelists discuss innovation in satellite technology.

The world’s largest gathering of space flight experts, explorers and enthusiasts will touch down in Colorado Springs from April 13 - 16 for a five-day meet-up at The Broadmoor Hotel. Presented by the Colorado Springs-based Space Foundation, the Symposium attracts thousands of professionals from the global, civil, commercial and military space community each year. 

These scientists and entrepreneurs, joined by government and technology professionals will represent 25 nations. They’ll also fill local hotels and restaurants. Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Doug Price estimates their economic impact on the city at $30 million. “But even more important, the Symposium draws worldwide attention to our region,” he says.  

That upbeat view is shared by Broadmoor Chairman Steve Bartolin. “The Symposium is one of my favorite conferences. Every inch of hotel space – including the specially erected 33,000-square foot Ball Aerospace Exhibit Center near Broadmoor Hall – is in use. I don’t think we’ll host a more dynamic meeting this year,” he says. El Pomar Foundation Chairman and Space Foundation co-founder Bill Hybl adds that today’s global participation “has vastly exceeded my most optimistic expectations.” 

Just a few of this year’s headliners include: Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General, European Space Agency (ESA); Ger Nieuwpoort, Ph.D., Director, Netherlands Space Office; David Parker, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer, United Kingdom Space Agency; Dr. Marious-Ioan Piso, Chief Executive Officer, Romanian Space Agency (ROSA); USAF Commander John E. Hyten and The Honorable Deborah Lee James, Secretary of the Air Force.

During the week, attendees will hear from and interact with leaders from all space sectors – space agencies, commercial space, national security, new space, finance, research, academia and science. Discussions will include commercial space opportunities, secure global space communications and defense.  In short, the Space Symposium program mirrors our changing world. As a result of these modern security concerns, agenda discussions on space strategies, defense and innovation are closed to the general public. This year’s new Cyber 1.5 sessions, for example, will be offered only to those with security clearance. 

Outside guests, however, are invited to attend the event’s opening ceremonies and award presentations. And more than 300 school tours enable space leaders of tomorrow to view exciting on-site exhibits and demonstrations. 

Pre-approved media are allowed in as well. For example, Space Foundation Vice President Kevin Cook recalls that last year CNN appeared unexpectedly to shoot footage that they planned to use in a feature they were doing on Space. “It was great exposure for us,” he says.

Many of the Symposium’s commercial participants register, not only for updates and professional advancement but to interface directly with military, legislative, government and funding representatives. It’s a rare opportunity to gather all members of the space community in one place, at one time. 

It’s also a great place to get work done.

That’s why Ball Aerospace Corp. opted to sponsor the Symposium’s high profile Symposium Exhibit Center. It also motivates roughly 200 sponsors and exhibitors to renew their contracts year after year.

This year, for example, Braxton Technologies will sponsor an exhibit booth, expand its meeting room contract and again host the Symposium’s largest invitation-only reception. The latter, called Connecting Colorado is open and free for Colorado companies, large and small. It’s also the place to be.

“We invite all international aerospace community executives to attend. Last year more than 800 people turned out,” says CEO and President Frank Backes who describes the evening as a unique way for Colorado companies to network.

The company will also have 25 representatives on-site and is tripling the size of its booth space this year – a major investment that Backes describes as “well worth it.” 

Five important awards will also be presented, including the 2015 James E. Hill Lifetime Achievement Award recognizing European Space Agency Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain. The 2015 Alan Shepard Technology in Education Award will also be presented to an educator who has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to inspiring students’ interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Since 1984, the Symposium program has evolved in many ways. What started with discussions about NASA’s space program, Space in the Classroom and keynote addresses by space pioneers Alan Shepard and Buzz Aldrin, now includes topics like commercial space, satellite technology and international collaboration. Recent opening ceremonies have featured live appearances by Hollywood celebrities and proponents Leonard Nimoy and Sigourney Weaver. And this year NASA – hit hard by federal budget cutbacks in 2012 – will have more representatives in attendance thanks to partnerships with space researchers at CU Boulder and Colorado aerospace companies.  Yesterday, today and tomorrow Symposium programs will always be dedicated to the promotion of space exploration, education and innovation. 

Cook credits the Symposium’s continued success to strong community and industry support as well as to America’s enduring love affair with space. He also offers this invitation: “The Symposium may not be open to the public, but everyone is welcome to visit our Colorado Springs Space Foundation World Headquarters and Discovery Center.”