After 33 years, the Colorado Springs-based Space Foundation’s annual Space Symposium — which took place April 3-6 at The Broadmoor hotel — is only getting stronger.
Perhaps the first indication of that strength came in January, when the event’s 180 exhibit spaces sold out faster than ever.
“We are seeing our exhibit space selling out sooner year after year,” Kevin Cook, the Space Foundation’s vice president of marketing and communications, told the Business Journal in January. “We are also seeing a welcome increase in new and smaller companies in addition to our long-established customers. All this bodes very well for the growth of the industry and signals renewed interest in space globally.”
Among those companies were 34 first-time exhibitors and 25 exhibitors from outside the U.S. But that’s not the only aspect of the event that’s experiencing growth.
Since the Space Foundation kick-started the event in 1984, the symposium has swelled from a meager 250 space enthusiasts to more than 11,000 guests representing commercial, civil and military entities from around the globe. The agenda has also grown to include technical and cyber tracks that included presentations and panels from notable industry and military experts.
Among the many tracks and sessions were panels and presentations on asteroid mining, space situational awareness, the latest developments in satellite technology, big data, lunar colonization and deep-space exploration. But for many attendees, the symposium’s networking and collaborative opportunities alone are worth the price of admission.
“We talk about business moving at the speed of industry,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Tony Muro. “Industry is at the cutting edge — they’re the ones out there engineering the latest and greatest technology. If we have the opportunity to meet with industry partners to share thoughts and ideas, we might be able to help each other out.”
Among the many companies that set up displays and presentations in the Boeing Exhibit Center and Pavilion (located in Broadmoor Hall) were several local firms, including Braxton, Catalyst Campus and the Space Foundation, as well as entities such as the U.S. Air Force Academy. There were also a slew of national and international companies that have a stake in Colorado Springs, including Ball Aerospace, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Sierra Nevada Corporation.
While the increasingly international appeal of the Space Symposium may mean more competition for smaller local exhibitors, it could also mean the possibility of increased exposure, according to J Chesney, general manager of Colorado Springs-based defense contractor TechWise.
“The Front Range is really tied to space and missile defense,” Chesney said. “I think this is a great networking event for people to get to know and understand everyone else’s capabilities.”
Chesney, who was volunteering at an exhibit for the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC, said the event also allows him to do something he loves: attracting potential business to the region.
“We really do have a lot to offer: great jobs, great companies, great people and great views,” he said. “I love bragging about how great Colorado Springs is and about how it’s the right city to start a business, grow and expand.”
U.S. Army Maj. Justin Agostine, a strategic planner for the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, said this was his first year at the annual event and that he was impressed by its magnitude.
“I think it’s interesting that people from Japan and all across Europe have told me today that this is the world’s leading event when it comes to these industries,” Agostine said. “People come from all over the world to be here, because this is what they think of as the Silicon Valley of the defense industry.”
Agostine is a corporate fellow with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a program that helps active duty military personnel prepare to transition back into civilian life. As part of that program he has become involved with both TechWise and the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC.
Muro, a course director for the National Security Space Institute at Peterson Air Force Base, said that he has attended the symposium for years — previously as an industry liaison for U.S. Air Force Space Command headquartered at Peterson.
“The Space Symposium was one of my babies,” he said. “It always feels like a family reunion when I come back — but there are also so many new faces.”
Muro said he keeps up to date with the aerospace and defense industries as a matter of both personal and professional interest, and that the Space Symposium remains the preeminent trade show for folks looking to network and collaborate.
“This is, no kidding, what I would call the Mecca of space,” Muro said. “Anybody who’s anybody in the space community comes to the Space Symposium. It’s a great opportunity to meet folks and see what the latest and greatest stuff is out there, and it gives us a chance to find new business partners.”