22nd National Space Symposium Begins Today

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado-- The 22nd National Space Symposium is underway here this week, bringingtogether leaders from around the globe to discuss issues of the day that facegovernment, civilian, and university space endeavors.

There'splenty to talk about, from Earth observations, military endeavors in researchand development to NASA's fledgling Moon, Mars and beyond work. 

"Interms of intellectual content, this Symposium is clearly our mostexploration-focused and most commercial-entrepreneurial focused ever, saidElliot Pulham, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Space Foundation in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The group conducts the annual National SpaceSymposium (NSS), being held April 3-6 at The Broadmoor Hotel.

High "wow" factor

Ofcourse military customers and topics will still be abundant, Pulham told SPACE.com,along with top tier officials from NASA, FAA, NOAA, and aerospace firms. Hesaid that this year's NSS will have the highest "wow" factor to date. A hugeexhibition hall is packed with the latest in updates on current and future spaceinitiatives.

"Giventhe possibilities for peaceful international collaboration that come withexploration, it's also highly noteworthy that the most senior leaders of boththe Chinese and Japanese space agencies are participating," Pulham explained.

Theforecast for the number of participants is over 7,500 when all events andactivities of the week are tallied, Pulham advised.

Morethan half of the event's speakers have never spoken at this event before,Pulham added, a fact that reflects the changes that are going on in theindustry. "We're on the brink of the great age of space commerce and that'sreflected in the program."


Partnering,improving Department of Defense (DoD) acquisitions, and harnessing the power ofsynthesis are to be spotlighted by Alexis Livanos, President of the SpaceTechnology sector for Northrop Grumman Corporation in Redondo Beach, California.

"Ibelieve that partnering makes us greater than the whole," Livanos said. "Ithelps us deliver more innovative technologies, with greater benefits, to ourcustomers than we would be able to do individually."

Todo that, Livanos explained, there is need to scour both traditional andnon-traditional sources, searching for partners with the ideas and capabilitiesto advance customer interests.

Room for improvement

Inthe arena of DoD acquisition, space systems are working magnificently, he said."But cost overruns, technical difficulties and schedule delays associated withspace systems have caused serious concern. There is a lot of room forimprovement."

Governmentand industry are taking steps to improve the acquisition process, Livanosexplained. For industry's part, he emphasized, prime contractors arestrengthening their management of subcontractors by taking extra measures tounderstand the capabilities of the supply base and by proactively applyingtheir own expertise when necessary.

"Mostpeople think that knowledge is power. I disagree with that statement," Livanossaid. "I think the synthesis of knowledge is power. This is the ability tobring the pieces together, to shape what you're going to do...that's what'simportant. The next generation of space exploration is here and how we approachthat together -- as an industry -- will make all the difference."

Global space economy

Howto sustain and fortify the business of space is a challenge.

"Thespace industry is often bad at understanding its own economic drivers andimpacts. We lack shared, reliable data about the business of space," explainedCarissa Bryce Christensen, Founder and Managing Partner of the TauriGroup in Alexandria, Virginia. She is moderator of a featured session at the Symposium:"Competitiveness - Maintaining an Edge in the Global Space Economy."

"The symposiumsession on competitiveness opens a rare window on leadership insights cuttingacross launch and service sectors, from speakers who are shaping the future ofthe industry," Christensen pointed out.

Fordecades, achieving low-cost access to space has been an issue and a bottleneckto progress.

Atthe forefront of today's run at low-cost space transportation is Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of El Segundo, California.

On tap as a featured speaker at the NSS gatheringwill be Elon Musk, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for SpaceX. Clearly,the entrepreneurial firm experienced a recent setback in the quest due to theloss of their Falcon1 booster on its maiden flight.

Throwing in the towel?

Musk offered SPACE.com an early lookat what he'll be talking about at the Symposium. "The biggest theme I will be emphasizing from aSpaceX standpoint is that we are in this for the long term," he said.

"Inthe past, I've said that I would accept three consecutive failures. However, Iactually consider this first launch a partial success, because we were able totest so much hardware working together in flight," Musk said. In addition, hisrocket team empirically verified the payload environment, that is, thevibration and acoustics that a rocket experiences during the liftoffphase. 

"Thatmeans we still have at least three failures to go before I would even considerthrowing in the towel," Musk explained.

Musk said the Falcon 1 flight was also a partial success for the customer thatpaid for the ride, being the DARPA/AF Falcon program. "Although we didcarry a $700,000 Air Force Academy satellite, the primary goal of this launchwas to test and obtain flight data on our launch vehicle...and that wasaccomplished to a significant degree."

Onward to Falcon 9

Bythe way, as a courtesy, Musk added, SpaceX has extended an offer to the Academyto fly one of their student satellites at no charge on Falcon 9 as a piggyback.

The next most important theme that Musk will deliver is that work continueswithout pause on the SpaceX Falcon 9. "At most, I expect a two to threemonth delay due to the Falcon 1 detailed systems review, but we are stillhoping for a flight 1st stage static fire at the end of this year and themaiden flight of Falcon 9 by late 2007."

Hereat the National Space Symposium, the agenda is full in detailing civil,commercial, and national security space pursuits and the educational know-howto realize these activities.

Believeit or not, Elliot Pulham concluded, The Space Foundation has already seen apreliminary design from one of their consultants for the first National SpaceSymposium to be held on Mars. "Now wouldn't that be something?"

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Leonard David
Space Insider Columnist

Leonard David is an award-winning space journalist who has been reporting on space activities for more than 50 years. Currently writing as Space.com's Space Insider Columnist among his other projects, Leonard has authored numerous books on space exploration, Mars missions and more, with his latest being "Moon Rush: The New Space Race" published in 2019 by National Geographic. He also wrote "Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet" released in 2016 by National Geographic. Leonard  has served as a correspondent for SpaceNews, Scientific American and Aerospace America for the AIAA. He has received many awards, including the first Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History in 2015 at the AAS Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium. You can find out Leonard's latest project at his website and on Twitter.