Charles Bolden, NASA’s administrator, addresses a crowd at the first annual SpaceCom expo. Bolden spoke about the important role that private and commercial space companies will play in helping NASA send humans to distant space locations.
Registration is open for the third iteration of an annual space conference that talks about applications of space technology for Earth.
SpaceCom 2017 — short for Space Commerce — will take place from Dec. 5 to 7 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. The program will place special emphasis on how companies developing technologies for use on Earth and in space can work together.
The conference’s executive director, James Causey, said there has been a surge in attendance in industries such as maritime, energy, agribusiness, medical and advanced manufacturing — all industries that are looking to space to improve their services. [Incredible Technology: Spiderlike Robots Could Build Giant Space Structures ]
“We are evolving our conference as the market itself is evolving; we’re not staying lockstep, but we’re looking at what’s going on in the market and trying to adjust to that,” Causey said in an interview with Space.com.
“Right now, companies involved in Earth observation and using satellite data generally are growing by leaps and bounds,” he added, pointing (as an example) to Canadian satellite giant MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA), which recently acquired DigitalGlobe , a company that provides high-resolution space imagery.
Keynote speakers will include Robert Lightfoot (NASA acting administrator), Daniel Kraft (chair for medicine at Singularity University) and representatives from IBM’s Watson, which is a supercomputer intended to answer questions through a combination of artificial intelligence and analytical software.
Between 2,400 and 2,600 attendees are expected to register this year — well over the 2,000 that signed on last year and the 1,500 people that came to the conference in 2015.
The conference show floor will also be larger, with between 150 and 175 individual entities spanning approximately 25,000 square feet (a third bigger than last year). Key vendors are expected to include NASA, United Launch Alliance, Orbital ATK, Boeing and Lockheed.
“We’re going to have some astronauts on the show floor doing various things, from book signings to discussing some of what happened on their flights and what they did in space,” Causey said.
“There will also be an innovation theater where individual companies can make presentations to people on the show floor itself, and private meeting areas where people can closet themselves and talk quietly with prospective business partners. The reason for that is important. What happens at SpaceCom is people do deals, and one of the things about a deal is they tend to need to be in private.”
Attendees will also have access to a “matching system” that will allow people to see who is on the registration file and to set up individual meetings as they see fit. This is an expansion of a smaller pilot project that was launched last year, Causey said.
In response to attendee requests, SpaceCom has also added a full-day entrepreneur’s workshop, in which about 50 to 75 companies will participate. These companies will make their pitches to venture capitalists and angel investors, and a vote will be taken on which company had the best business pitch.