NASA's Moon Push and International Opportunities Take Center Stage at SpaceCom 2019

The annual SpaceCom expo kicks off in Houston this week, and the event will highlight commercial opportunities for NASA's return to the moon. Here, an artist's concept of a Ceres Robotics moon lander and lunar rover on the moon's surface.
The annual SpaceCom expo kicks off in Houston this week, and the event will highlight commercial opportunities for NASA's return to the moon. Here, an artist's concept of a Ceres Robotics moon lander and lunar rover on the moon's surface. (Image credit: Ceres Robotics)

SpaceCom's conference in Houston on Nov. 20 and 21 includes a new focus on commercial opportunities associated with NASA's planned lunar landings in 2024.

This year's conference is expected to attract about 2,500 attendees, heavily representing the space-business sector. The event will be held at the George R. Brown Convention Center, and you can register here.

The 5-year-old conference helps commercial spaceflight companies with the business applications arising from space exploration, especially in three sectors: space-enabled services (such as measuring water content on land using Earth-observing satellites), low Earth orbit (where the International Space Station hosts in-space manufacturing and medical research) and the mission to return humans to the moon in 2024 as part of NASA's Artemis program.

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"The way that we have set the conference up is determining what industries would be really interested in understanding in those three arenas," SpaceCom executive director James Causey told . "We bring together NASA and the aerospace community, and the international component is very significant."

While attending companies come from all sectors of aerospace, there is a special focus on five areas that are seeing significant growth these days: energy, medical applications, advanced manufacturing, maritime and agriculture. 

"Everyone is claiming this is going to become a trillion-dollar market at some point ... and if that's true, we believe you also have to have a really deep entrepreneurial message," Causey said, adding that his conference aims to foster conversations among businesses to take advantage of new opportunities in the space sector.

The conference includes 140 speakers. Some of the highlights include science host and The Planetary Society Chief Executive Officer Bill Nye, NASA Associate Administrator Tom Cremins (who will talk about the Artemis program and commercialization opportunities) and Kent Rominger, a former NASA astronaut who now is vice president of Northrop Grumman's strategic programs.

The trade show space will house 25,000 square feet (2,300 square meters) of exhibits and experiences. The centerpiece is a NASA booth, and there will also be a large number of attendees from the Italian Trade Agency and Italian Space Agency. A NASA theater on the floor will present the challenges of going back to the moon in a series of workshops, and the U.S. Department of Energy will discuss technology transfer between it and NASA and how federal laboratories are getting involved in the space community.

Causey said NASA's decision to accelerate the moon landings to 2024 (from 2028) "has mobilized the commercial sector" in the past year. "The other thing that is evolving ... is the pace at which we are able to launch [satellites]," he added, since many rockets today can carry fleets of small cubesats to orbit in a single launch. This means that multiple missions can launch on the same rocket at the same time, allowing more companies to participate in Earth observation, telecommunications and other space industries at a lower cost.

The international market is rapidly growing due to cheaper launches and more abundant space opportunities in general, Causey added, with countries such as Ecuador and Portugal heading to orbit to join the more traditional space powers. "One of the themes we are driving at for 2019, and will continue into 2020, is how a regional economy or how a small country can benefit as a result of being engaged in the space sector," he said.

You can view the whole conference program at this link.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: