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Learn about ASCEND: The event defining the future of space

ASCEND is a new event designed to drive the space economy forward. It’s the center of gravity for the space community—bringing technical and business leaders together to solve problems that affect our entire planet and beyond. It’s not just an engineering forum. It’s not just a business conference.

ASCEND is a platform for you to connect, debate, and shape the future.


What you can expect

At ASCEND, you’ll experience 3 days of immersive learning and networking alongside people who understand the challenges you face.

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Do you have a technical or business challenge? Bring your burning questions and engage the space community to uncover answers.

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Join world class thought leaders to share your research, solve problems, and set a vision for the future of the space community.

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Accelerate Success

Get funding, make an investment, find a new job, or sign a contract. Good business happens in the company of experts.


Who you'll meet at ASCEND

If you’re passionate about the future of space technology and exploration, ASCEND is built for you. Specifically, you’ll be part of a diverse, global community representing:

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Private Enterprise


Civil Space

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Emerging Technology



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National Security


Space Sciences

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Why you can’t miss ASCEND

Learning can happen anywhere, but true progress only happens when we come together.

ASCEND is built on the belief that every member of the space community has something in common: a commitment to human exploration, interest in the effective utilization of space resources, and a focus on the long-term sustainability of the space enterprise. The best way to make it happen is to work across disciplines.

Together, we will plot the course of the space economy’s future.

Who launched ASCEND?

ASCEND is powered by AIAA, the world’s largest and most influential community of astronautical experts. AIAA is committed to empowering the future space economy.

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The ASCEND Guiding Coalition

The ASCEND experience is crafted with the support of world-renowned leaders in the space industry. AIAA and ASCEND’s Guiding Coalition have spent the past year investing time and resources into crafting the most multidisciplinary curriculum the space community has ever seen.

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Rob Meyerson

ASCEND Executive Producer

Rob Meyerson is the Executive Producer of ASCEND and leads the Guiding Coalition. He is the founder and CEO of Delalune Space, a management consulting company focused on the aerospace, mobility and technology sectors. Rob is the former President of Blue Origin.

Rob oversaw the steady growth of Blue Origin from 2003 to 2018, building the company from its founding into a more than 1500-person organization. Under Rob’s leadership, Blue Origin developed the New Shepard system for suborbital human and research flights, the BE-3 LOX/LH2 rocket engine, the BE-4 LOX/LNG rocket engine, the New Glenn launch vehicle and its vision for humanity in space; including the Blue Moon lunar lander, human spacecraft, habitats and in-space tugs. During this time, Rob oversaw Blue’s growth in staff (10 to 1500+), budget ($10M to $1B) and facilities (1 site to 6, 50K to 1M+ sq ft).
Prior to joining Blue, Rob was a Senior Program Manager at Kistler Aerospace. Rob began his career as an aerodynamicist at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC).

Rob earned a B.S. degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in industrial engineering from the University of Houston. He is an AIAA Fellow, a Trustee of the Museum of Flight in Seattle and a member of the University of Michigan College of Engineering Leadership Advisory Board. Rob was awarded the Space Flight Award by the American Astronautical Society in 2017 for his accomplishments at Blue Origin.

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Ellen Stofan

National Air and Space Museum

Ellen R. Stofan joined the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum as the John and Adrienne Mars Director in April 2018.
Stofan comes to the position with more than 25 years’ experience in space-related organizations and a deep research background in planetary geology. She was chief scientist at NASA (2013–2016), serving as the principal advisor to former Administrator Charles Bolden on NASA’s strategic planning and programs. She helped guide the development of a long-range plan to get humans to Mars, and worked on strategies for NASA to support commercial activity in low Earth orbit as it transitions from the International Space Station (ISS) to sending humans to the Moon and Mars in the mid-2020s. She supported NASA’s overall science programs in heliophysics, Earth science, planetary science, and astrophysics. While at NASA, she worked with President Barack Obama’s science advisor and the National Science and Technology Council on science policy.

An accomplished public speaker, Stofan has addressed the World Economic Forum’s Council on the Future of Space Technologies at Davos and served as co-chair of the council. She has spoken at the World Science Festival, SciFest Africa, and numerous universities and schools around the world.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in geology at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and her master’s and doctoral degrees at Brown University, both in geological sciences. While finishing her doctoral degree, Stofan joined the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) as a post-doctoral fellow and became the deputy project scientist for the Magellan Mission to Venus.

In 1994, Stofan became JPL’s chief scientist for the New Millennium Program where she managed a team of about 100 scientists working on new technologies. The following year, Stofan moved to London while continuing to work at JPL and was, and continues to be, an Honorary Professor at University College London.

For 13 years (2000–2013), Stofan was vice president and senior scientist at Proxemy Research, a consulting firm in the Washington area specializing in planetary research.
She was on the board of the College of William & Mary Foundation for 10 years, serving as board chair and co-chair of the development committee as it planned a $1 billion fundraising campaign.

Stofan’s research focuses on the geology of Venus, Mars, Saturn’s moon Titan, and Earth. Her favorite mission was Cassini, primarily because of her interest in Titan.

She has published extensively and received many awards and honors, including the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, and was named one of “CNN’s Extraordinary People of 2014.” She is co-author of the books Planetology: Unlocking the Secrets of the Solar System and Next Earth: What Our World Can Teach Us About Other Planets, both published by National Geographic.

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Fred Kennedy

Former Director, Space Development Agency

Dr. Fred Kennedy served as the inaugural Director of the U. S. Department of Defense (DoD) Space Development Agency (SDA), established by Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan in March 2019. The SDA's mission is to define and monitor the DoD’s future threat-driven space architecture and to accelerate the development and fielding of new military space capabilities necessary to ensure U.S. technological and military advantage in space for national defense.

From 2017 until he became the SDA Director, Dr. Kennedy was the Director of the Tactical Technology Office (TTO) of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Prior to joining DARPA, he served as the senior policy advisor for national security space and aviation in the National Security and International Affairs Division of of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). In this role, Dr. Kennedy advised the President of the United States on matters related to space and aviation policy.

Dr. Kennedy served 23 years in the United States Air Force, where he retired as a colonel. During his tenure, he served as a Senior Materiel Leader in both the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center’s Remote Sensing Directorate and the Air Force Lifecycle Management Center’s Battle Management Directorate. Prior to that, he was the lead for Space Requirements with the Joint Staff/J-8 in the Capabilities and Acquisition Division at the Pentagon and a chief for Spacecraft Payload Development and Test and Satellite Systems and Acquisition at the National Reconnaissance Office. From 2005 to 2008, while still in the Air Force, Dr. Kennedy served as a program manager at DARPA, where he created and managed efforts around spacecraft and satellite servicing, advanced space power and propulsion systems, and innovative space technologies.

Dr. Kennedy holds a Ph.D. in electronics and physical sciences from the University of Surrey; a Master of Arts in organizational management from George Washington University; a Master of Arts in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College; and a Master of Science and Bachelor of Science, both in aeronautics and astronautics, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Alec Gallimore

University of Michigan

Dr. Alec D. Gallimore is the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering at the University of Michigan. Dean Gallimore is a rocket scientist, and in 2019 was elected to the National Academy of Engineering–among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer. He is a leader in the field of advanced electric propulsion, who has excelled in research, teaching and service. His experience and creativity have led to program innovations to assist the growth of faculty and students. He is passionate about creating an inclusive environment and ensuring all individuals are treated with equity.

Dean Gallimore has been a faculty member at the University of Michigan since January 1992. He is the Richard F. and Eleanor A. Towner Professor of Engineering, and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering, and founder and director of the Plasmadynamics and Electric Propulsion Laboratory. He is also a member of the Applied Physics faculty. He co-founded MCubed, a real-time seed-funding program for high-risk, multidisciplinary research–now adopted University-wide.

Previously, Dean Gallimore served as associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Engineering, where he had oversight of faculty hiring, promotion and tenure; merit reviews, budget reviews and planning; and space allocation. From 2011-2013, Dean Gallimore was associate dean for research and graduate education. In this role, he was responsible for the education and welfare of some 3300 graduate students and 200 postdoctoral fellows, and for overseeing a research enterprise that exceeded $200M annually in expenditures. From 2005 to 2011, he served as an associate dean at the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, where he developed and implemented programs in engineering, the physical sciences and mathematics. Dr. Gallimore’s term as Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering began in July 2016.

He has served on a number of advisory boards for NASA and the Department of Defense, including the United States Air Force Scientific Advisory Board (AFSAB). He was awarded the Decoration for Meritorious Civilian Service in 2005 for his AFSAB work. In 2010, he was elected a fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). He has graduated 40 Ph.D. students and 14 master’s students, and has written more than 360 publications on electric propulsion and plasma physics.

He currently serves on Georgia Tech’s College of Engineering External Advisory Board, the University of Colorado, Boulder College of Engineering & Applied Science External Advisory Council, Cornell’s Engineering College Council, the University Musical Society Board of Directors, the University of Michigan School of Nursing Board for Science and Innovation, the University of Michigan School of Education Dean’s Advisory Council, the Board of Directors for the Engineering Society of Detroit, and the Board of Directors for ANSYS, Inc.

Dean Gallimore received his BS in Aeronautical Engineering from Rensselaer (RPI), and his MA and Ph.D. degrees in Aerospace Engineering with a focus on plasma physics from Princeton. His primary research interests include advanced spacecraft (electric) propulsion, plasma physics and advanced plasma diagnostics, nanoparticle energetics, and the use of plasma for energy transfer and environmental remediation.

Under Dean Gallimore’s ME 2020 strategic vision, Michigan Engineering is committed to becoming the world’s preeminent college of engineering serving the common good. The College is asserting a leadership role and voice in: developing intellectually curious and socially conscious minds; collaboratively solving societal big problems, based on a strong foundation of breakthrough interdisciplinary research and forward-looking academic-industry partnerships; and promoting an inclusive and innovative community of service for the common good.

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George Whitesides

Virgin Galactic

George T. Whitesides is the CEO of Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline, and The Spaceship Company, a manufacturer of advanced space vehicles. With its innovative spacecraft, the company seeks to transform access to space to change the world for good.

Prior to Virgin Galactic, George served as Chief of Staff for NASA. Upon departure from the American space agency, he received the Distinguished Service Medal, the highest award the agency confers.

He previously served as chair of the Reusable Launch Vehicle Working Group for the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee, and a member of the Board of Trustees of Princeton University and the board of Virgin Unite USA.

George has testified on American space policy before the United States Senate, the United States House of Representatives, and the President’s Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy.

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Kay Sears

Lockheed Martin

Kay Sears is the Vice President and General Manager of the Military Space line of business for Lockheed Martin Space. In this capacity, Kay has general management responsibility for critical national security space programs including Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF), Defense Meteorological Space Program (DMSP), Global Positioning System (GPS), Mobile User Objective System (MUOS), Space Based Infrared Systems (SBIRS), Space Protection and other Department of Defense space programs.

Previously, Kay was the Vice President of Strategy and Business Development where she was responsible for growing the Space business with a comprehensive strategy to develop new markets and expand core mission areas. She also led strategic planning, advanced technology concepts and new business acquisition efforts for each of the Space lines of business. Prior to joining Lockheed Martin, Kay served as president of Intelsat General. In this role, Kay was responsible for implementing the company’s strategic and operational plans and for the overall mission of providing a range of sustainable, cost-effective and secure communication solutions to government and commercial customers. Before joining Intelsat, Kay helped launch government services business units at both G2 Satellite Solutions and Verestar. With nearly three decades of experience, Kay is a respected leader in the space and satellite communications industry and has extensive experience in rapid-response solutions for both military and civil agencies of the U.S. government. In 2009, Kay was appointed to the President’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee to provide information, technical expertise, advice and guidance regarding issues that may affect national security telecommunications capabilities.

Kay has a B.S. in marketing and economics from the University of Richmond and an MBA in Information Systems from George Washington University.

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Mary Lynne Dittmar

Coalition for Deep Space Exploration

Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar is President and CEO of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, an industry trade group supporting human exploration, science, commerce, and American leadership in space. Under her leadership the Coalition has grown from 5 companies to more than 70 over the past four years and is a recognized source for policy, technical and business information in the aerospace and defense sector.

Earlier in her career Dr. Dittmar managed the mission operations group for The Boeing Company on the International Space Station Program. Later, she acted as a special advisor to the NASA Astronaut Office before her appointment as Boeing Chief Scientist for Commercial Utilization of the ISS. More recently she was Senior Policy Advisor to International Space Station National Laboratory. She has also served as a senior advisor to NASA, the DoD, and the FAA.

Mary Lynne is a Fellow of the National Research Society and an Associate Fellow of the American Institute for Astronautics and Aeronautics. From 2012-2014 she served as a member of the National Research Council Committee on Human Spaceflight, and is beginning her third term as a member of the Executive Committee of the Space Studies Board of the National Academies. She is also a member of the Users’ Advisory Group of the National Space Council and of the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee for the FAA. Dr. Dittmar resides in Washington, D.C.

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Sandra Magnus

Office of the Secretary of Defense Research and Engineering

Dr. Sandra H. “Sandy” Magnus, is the Deputy Director of Engineering in the Office of the Secretary of Defense Research and Engineering. Prior to joining the DoD she served as the Executive Director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), the world’s largest technical society dedicated to the global aerospace profession. Selected to the NASA Astronaut Corps in April, 1996, Dr. Magnus flew in space on the STS-112 shuttle mission in 2002, and on the final shuttle flight, STS-135, in 2011. In addition, she flew to the International Space Station on STS-126 in November 2008, served as flight engineer and science officer on Expedition 18, and returned home on STS-119 after four and a half months on board. Following her assignment on Station, she served at NASA Headquarters in the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. Her last duty at NASA, after STS-135, was as the deputy chief of the Astronaut Office. Before joining NASA, Dr. Magnus worked for McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Company from 1986 to 1991, as a stealth engineer. While at McDonnell Douglas, she worked on internal research and development and on the Navy’s A-12 Attack Aircraft program, studying the effectiveness of radar signature reduction techniques.

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