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Launching Soon — the 2021 ASCEND Call for Content

Submit your proposals for Technical Papers or Community Sessions.

Submission Opens 25 February/Closes 30 March

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Session formats

The ASCEND agenda is being designed to spur large-scale discussions of the trends, economic forces, and challenges facing every member of the space ecosystem; to allow for focused conversations to apply these big ideas to different sectors, projects, and use cases; and to exchange technical content and go deep into specific advancements and discoveries.

Although paper presentations and networking are still central components, ASCEND is a platform that reimagines how we have the discussions, how we network, and the purpose of our gathering. It is outcome-focused, generating published manuscripts, white papers, business connections, conversations, projects, funding opportunities, and more.

ASCEND will feature both traditional and non-traditional session formats. Watch a video overview to learn more.

There are multiple ways to engage

Download a PDF to see the options you have to get involved.

Traditional formats


Engaging presentations of a technical paper that may range in length from 15-20 minutes.


Presentations of research in the form of a digital or printed poster. Individuals may also be assigned a time slot for oral presentation of the poster in a lightning talk. Poster session participants will have the option of submitting a manuscript for publication in the ASCEND Conference Proceedings.

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Moderated discussions amongst experts on a particular topic. Note: panels must be diverse in demographics and opinions.


Interactive learning sessions that provides information and hands-on experience to introduce a complex topic, complete a task, or become familiar with a new skill or tool and may award certification or education credits. Tutorials may be designed to run between 1–4 hours in length, or potentially longer if spanning multiple days.

Bobby Braun


Collaborative sessions where attendees use skills and experience to develop a solution to an issue, contribute to a draft document, or build on work in progress.


A gathering of the community around a topic or paper for discussion and planning.

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Non-traditional formats


A classic debate where a provocative question is posed and both sides are represented. The audience is polled before and after the session and the speaker who changes the most minds “wins.”

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Succinct talks provided in a quick flow with limited slides (maximum of 5 minutes each).

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Similar to the show Shark Tank or any pitch session, the speakers have a set amount of time to relay their ideas and then are questioned by a panel of experts. The audience can vote for the winning idea, if desired, and additional pitch development workshops can be coordinated around this activity.


Invited discussions where experts each present for five minutes and then the group engages in a facilitated discussion around the topic.


ASCEND 2020 will pilot a new program that allows partnering institutions to facilitate real-time education and outreach activities during the event. AIAA will work with a small number of accepted proposals to connect with the appropriate audience, such as local K-12 students, as well as to coordinate limited participation from ASCEND attendees as observers or active learners. Please see the Education, Outreach, and Workforce Development topic description for more information.


An unstructured session in which the participants determine the topic and format in real time. Example: A Topic Tournament in which individuals present a series of pressing issues for 5 minutes each, using a timer. The audience votes on which topic should be discussed deeper.

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Presentation types

ASCEND is designed to be a platform for the discussion and analysis of the space community’s best ideas and greatest challenges. As such, the Call for Content allows authors and subject matter experts to submit proposals for the presentation of technical papers and case studies, as well as to lead interactive sessions. Authors may select from the topics and formats described in the Call or suggest related topics and unique formats of their own design.

Individual presentation

Select this option to submit an abstract for the publication of a technical paper or case study in the conference proceedings under one of the following categories:

  • Technical Paper (Completed Research)
    A deep dive into a project or research that is substantially complete.
  • Technical Paper (Work in Progress)
    A deep dive into a project or research that is ongoing or not yet complete.
  • Case Study
    A deep dive on a completed project or activity that serves as an example that can be replicated or learned from. Example: a detailed report on the outreach activities of an AIAA local section, including information on program goals, budgets, outcomes, best practices, and lessons learned.
  • Student Paper
    Student papers include all technical papers and case studies whose primary authors were students at the time the project or research was completed.

When submitting, presenters will select the general topic area and indicate the types of sessions in which they are willing to participate. Accepted abstracts will then be organized by the supporting AIAA committee representatives into various session types, including interdisciplinary Technical Presentation Sessions, Poster Sessions, Roundtables, Lightning Talks, and Discussion Panels.

Engagement session

Select this option to propose to organize and lead a session during ASCEND on any of the topics described below, or on a related topic of your choosing that is not listed.

Proposals may be designed around any of the session types described above or follow a unique format of your choosing.

Sessions that can be completed in two hours or less are preferred, but longer sessions will be considered.

When submitting an engagement session, it is required that the submitter describes the overall focus and goals of the session, including key concepts and supporting topics, the flow for the session, and any facilitation techniques or methods used. Specificity in the session format description is mandatory.

Engagement Session submissions must begin with the Session Template, but you are welcome to include additional supporting information within the file.


All are welcome. We move forward by working together. Whether your primary interest is space-related, or you offer adjacent solutions, your voice is needed. ASCEND challenges diverse communities to come together, discuss, grow, and help establish the future.

To that end, we have identified, through collaboration with leading space organizations and the AIAA technical community, the 12 most pressing topics to be tackled at ASCEND 2020 under three major themes: Accelerating the near-term commercialization of space, Enabling the long-term human exploration and settlement of spaceExploring the security, policy, and legal ramifications of space endeavors.

Submissions are requested in the following topic areas:

All topic areas

Download a PDF to see all available topics.

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Defining the Space Economy

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Education, Outreach, and Workforce Development

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Information Systems and Software

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National Science Priorities

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National Security Space

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Space Exploration Architectures and Enabling Infrastructures

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Space Life Sciences and Systems

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Space Policy and Law

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Space Resource Utilization

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Space Traffic Management and Integration

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Transformative Research and Technologies

ASCEND recognizes that the conversations needed to build our off-world future may extend beyond this list and encourages the community to submit ideas for additional topics through the Call for Content process.

AIAA Members: Please note that an intentional, concerted effort was made to integrate the interest areas of the space related AIAA Technical, Integration, and Outreach Committees into a more cohesive call than has previously been attempted. Each topic described above was constructed with the input of representatives from across the AIAA membership and committee structures. If you have questions about where to submit your abstract or suggestions for additional subtopics, please contact the AIAA staff at ascend@aiaa.org.

UPDATE: In response to the disruption caused by COVID-19, the deadline for the Call for Content will be extended until 8pm ET on Tuesday 31 March 2020. If you have any questions about your submission, please contact the Topic Administrator for the section you wish to submit to, as indicated in the full PDF.

Engagement Session submissions must begin with the Session Template, but you are welcome to include additional supporting information within the file.

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