The 36th Space Symposium, delayed from last year and earlier this year because of COVID, finally took place in person and virtually, from Aug. 23 -26 at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. Hosted by the Space Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy organization headquartered in Colorado Springs, the symposium is a gathering of the most influential experts in global military, commercial and academia.

The 8,000 attendees from 25 countries represented all sectors of the space ecosystem ranging from space agencies and commercial space businesses to think tanks and military, national security and intelligence organizations. They assemble to examine critical space issues, promote dialogue, demonstrate emerging technologies and focus attention on the future of space.

Prominent Featured Speakers

Gen. James Dickinson, Commander of U.S. Space Command, speaks at the 36th Space Symposium. Photo Credit: Thomas Kimmell

The symposium featured talks by VIPs including Gen. John “Jay” Raymond (Chief of Space Operations, U.S. Space Force), Sen. Bill Nelson (Administrator, NASA), Sen. Jerry Moran, Frank Kendall (Secretary, U.S. Air Force), Christopher Scolese (Director, National Reconnaissance Office), Gen. James Dickinson (Commander, U.S. Space Command) and Josef Aschbacher (Director General, European Space Agency).

Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall offered support for the still-evolving U.S. Space Force. He spoke of the critical role space plays in our nation’s security, the essential functions space enables in everyday life and why access must be assured as space becomes more congested and contested.  “It is impossible to overstate the importance of space-based systems to national security,” Kendall said during his keynote address.

Deterring conflict was the message from Gen. James Dickinson, Commander of the U.S. Space Command, who indicated that the warfighting force he leads has reached Initial Operational Capability. The IOC designation means the United States’ 11th and newest combatant command now has enough people and resources to protect U.S. satellites, deter aggression and provide space-based services to the U.S. military. There are about 1,500 people currently working at the U.S. Space Command including headquarters and field organizations. It has representatives from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Space Force.”

One of our most important sources of American strength is free and open access to the benefits of space-based capabilities,” he said. “Free and open access requires a peaceful domain. That’s why the U.S. Space Command’s fundamental objective is to deter a conflict in space. And if deterrence fails, we will defeat aggression, through delivering space combat power for the joint and combined force.”

U.S. space dominance and the importance of continued investments to mature space technology were recurring themes of the show. Sen. Jerry Moran told the packed Space Symposium conference, “Unfortunately, there is no doubt that we are behind in this new space race. I do not believe that our astronauts, upon returning to the Moon, will want to be welcomed by the Chinese and the Russians. Instead, we should be there to meet them whenever they arrive.”

On a panel with the heads of seven other space agencies, NASA Administrator Sen. Bill Nelson said he remains confident that Russia will be a part of the International Space Station through the end of the decade. But he warned of an emerging space race with China. “We expect our Russian partners to continue with us, and we expect to expand the space station as a government project all the way to 2030.”

Exhibit Hall and Product Announcements

This year’s expo, in the Broadmoor’s new 171,000-square foot Bartolin Hall, housed nearly 200 exhibitors covering diverse space innovations from nanotechnology to full-scale spacecraft.

Here are a few highlights:

  • Eaton Aerospace completed qualification testing for the aerospace industry’s first valve in tank assembly (VITA) propulsion feed system. VITA eliminates the need for a traditional feed system envelope, creating room for more payload.
  • ispace USA, a subsidiary of ispace Inc., announced it has designed the company’s “Series 2” lunar lander to carry bigger payloads, to land or orbit the moon and to survive a lunar night.
  • SAIC joined Space Foundation in announcing the first inclusive space cohort of six companies representing small, minority-owned and women-owned businesses for a joint Space Commerce Entrepreneurship Program. The six companies were selected based on diverse capabilities and ability to meet the needs of SAIC Space sector customers.
  • Spaceflight Inc. announced it has achieved 100% mission success for both its primary and secondary missions for SXRS-5, including the commissioning and successful firing of Astra’s Apollo Fusion electric propulsion system to enable orbital transfers.

The 37th Space Symposium is just eight months away on April 4-7, 2022, in Colorado Springs. We can only imagine the evolution of space exploration, policy and innovation between now and then.