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Critical Mass: The 34th Space Symposium

It’s an event like no other–one that has shaped Colorado Springs’ future.

Panelists and presenters share updates and international perspectives at the Space Symposium

Panelists and presenters share updates and international perspectives at the Space Symposium

Since 1984, the Space Symposium held at The Broadmoor, has convened space leaders from around the world to discuss, address and plan for the future of space. 

Last year the global, commercial, civil, defense and emergent space conference attracted more than 11,000 attendees, visitors and presenters. They were supported by more than 3,000 volunteers, staff and service providers. That’s considerably more than the near 250 space enthusiasts who turned out for the first Symposium.

“We live in a very digital age, but there’s still tremendous value in face-to-face meet-ups,” says Space Foundation Vice President Kevin Cook. 

Now in its 34th year, the event attracts high-profile sponsors and advocates. The Ball Aerospace Exhibit Hall and Pavilion – expanded this year to meet increased demand – is a sellout. The Space Foundation’s 200 Symposium co-sponsors include names like Aerojet, Boeing, Booz Allen Hamilton and Lockheed Martin – all underwriters of wide-ranging programs, exhibits and entertainment.  SpaceX, which is working to send space tourists to the Moon and back, will underwrite 2018’s Space Technology Hall of Fame awards dinner. And Harris Corp. is collaborating with the Space Foundation to provide STEM education grants through area schools to develop the Space workforce of the future.

Global interest in the Space Symposium continues to grow. Representatives from more than 20 countries will participate this year. High profile participants this year include Secretary of the United States Air Force Heather Wilson, Canadian Space Agency President Sylvain LaPorte, Mexican Space Agency General Director Francisco Javier Mendieta-Jiménez, NASA experts and more. They will be joined by: the Secretary General of the China Institute of Space Law; the Director of the European Space Agency; Director General, United Arab Emirates Space Agency; head of Russia’s International Legal Service Intersputnik Organization of Space Communications and other international presenters. 

Remarks cover topics like Military Use of Commercial Space or The Economics of Deep Space. Panelists weigh in on National Infrastructure and Security Applications for Weather and Oceans or Return to the Moon-The View of the International Legal Community. 

As part of the Space Foundation’s education mission, thousands of middle and high school students are invited to tour Symposium exhibits. Most events, however, are open only to registered attendees. Some require Top Secret Security Clearance. The city’s proximity to five military installations provides an efficient, low cost way for military members to attend. 

“We create an ideal environment to get work done,” Cook says. “It’s here you learn who does what in space -- and what you can do with it.” As the national focus on the role of Space in Cybersecurity grows, Colorado-based companies also consider the event a golden opportunity to connect with potential customers -- a valuable nexus where government and commercial space intersect.

“One meeting at the Symposium can accomplish what it would take three or four throughout the year to achieve,” says Catalyst Center founder and Braxton Technologies, LLC Chairman of the Board Kevin O’Neil. He points to the event’s “critical mass,” attracting top private sector and government talent.  

Reality, he says, is that the U.S. military increasingly depends on the commercial sector. Braxton works on DoD Command and Control projects involving satellite systems, scheduling, simulation and hardware production. And along with its Catalyst Center partners, will send 10 to 30 people a day to connect with current and prospective clients. Of the 40 teams or so now working on opportunities issued by the government, he estimates at least 30 will be at the Symposium. “The Space Foundation has created a “space center of gravity” in Colorado Springs. We are incredibly lucky to have it here,” he says.

Others see additional bottom line-benefits.

Broadmoor Hotel CEO Jack Damioli says the five-star resort is filled to capacity during Symposium Week. It’s an all-hands-on-deck week, he explains, where hotel and Space Foundation staffs “operate as one.” Damioli also believes the city’s profile as a Space capital that attracts top international space experts is on the rise. “I’m impressed by the Space Foundation’s far-reaching influence in Washington, D.C. and around the world,” he says. “They may be even better known nationally and internationally than here in their home town.”

Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau CEO Doug Price agrees, pointing to the gathering’s $30 million economic impact on area hotels, shopping, eateries and attractions. And while it showcases the city’s thriving airport and natural beauty, most importantly Price says the event elevates Colorado Springs’ profile as a center of Cyberspace innovation and technology.  “Paramount, in terms of visibility, the Space Symposium has put us on the map.” 

Because its customers expect the best, planning for next year’s 35th Space Symposium is already underway, Cook says. “And, as always, we’ll work to offer the unexpected.””