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A program fine-tuned to accelerate your work


The ASCEND program is built to leave you inspired and equipped with new tools, techniques, and ideas you can apply right away. You’ll experience a daily schedule that addresses big questions and challenges facing the entire space community.

The program is a three-tiered system. Starting from the 10,000-foot view (or perhaps we should say, “the 100 km view”), the sessions begin by posing the big questions about the future of space. As the event progresses, sessions narrow in focus and drill down into these questions, generating more practical and actionable discussions.

MACRO sessions offer insight and inspiration around a big theme that is relevant to all attendees.

In many cases, this is introduced as a question or issue that requires the full ecosystem to work together to resolve. The Macro topic is introduced in a high-energy opening session where the full community—exhibitors included—is present. The macro sessions are the “what,” and work well when they can be framed as questions. ASCEND macro topics for 2020 are:
  • How will we build a sustainable space economy?
  • How will we maintain a permanent off-world civilization?
  • How will we address national security and policy implications?
META-layer engagement provides the opportunity to connect the macro theme to each attendee’s discipline and interests.

The meta layer offers discussion, distillation, and debate. This meta layer is the link between the macro opening sessions and the micro technical sessions and business meetings, and is critical to a unified, connected event. Meta sessions are specifically relevant to two or more groups of attendees. The meta sessions are the “so what.”
The MICRO layer is where attendees dive deep and apply ideas they’ve picked up throughout the day.

The micro layer includes today’s technical sessions and poster sessions, carefully curated to follow the macro topics, along with business meetings. This is where the best problem-solving happens and the reason the community comes to ASCEND. The micro sessions are the “now what.”


Planning for ASCEND is underway. These sessions are subject to change. Sign up to receive email alerts.

Macro Topics

Meta Topics

Micro Topics

  • Mon 16
  • Tues 17
  • Wed 18
  • Under Development

Near-term Commercialization

Utilizing space to develop new goods and services that can benefit all of humanity is an undertaking of unprecedented scope. Join us as we explore the fundamental considerations necessary to capture the world’s interest and enable our off-world future, including questions relating to the technological, economic, risk-related, industrial and workforce elements of that growth. How will we work together to ensure the right capabilities and systems are ready when we need them? How will private investors, working alongside government agencies, collaborate to bring these new capabilities to market? Which non-endemic industries will be essential to moving the space economy forward? How will we build a sustainable space economy? Bring your ideas and help build an understanding of how solving these issues, individually and in tandem, will chart a navigable path.

Actual Space Economics

Visions of a trillion-dollar space economy are driving planning and investment. This session brings together leading experts on the space economy to provide deep insight building on established theory and cutting-edge analysis. We will cover the dynamics of the space economy and differential growth drivers across sectors, to provide actionable insights for business leaders and policy makers.

Earth Observation as the Next New Commercial Space Market

Earth Observation had a great 2010 decade of increasing market uptake, government interest in the commercial market, and a confluence of technologies that may unlock geospatial intelligence utility to bring it to the rest of society. Join us for the Meta Session to hear from companies that use commercial remote sensing products today in a TED talk format, then join us for an hour panel discussion with the leading US commercial remote sensing companies.

The Future of Telecommunications

The emergence of broadband and 5G services promises high bandwidth, low latency communications to enable instantaneous downloads, cloud gaming, and much more. How will space technologies help to develop these telecommunication networks of the future? And how will the telecommunication industry, in turn, help to develop space-based networks that will enable our off-world future? Join us for a discussion with mobile network operators and companies providing terrestrial infrastructure, near-space telecommunications, and satellite communications, along with the industries who will rely on their products.

Investment and Insight

In the growing space economy, the top of mind question for everyone is, “What is it going to take for a company to make money in space in a sustainable way?” This session takes a deep dive into understanding why and how organizations are investing in space, including a look at emerging commercial development opportunities, the adjacent market landscape, and what might be over the horizon.

Long-term Human Exploration

Exploring Earth, the Moon, Mars or anywhere else in the solar system will require the combined efforts of commercial industry, government, and academia. Establishing permanent human settlements on the Moon and Mars will require capturing and building on lessons from a host of disciplines. Beyond the infrastructure and technologies that will be needed, what terrestrial technologies, like construction, telecommunications and mining, may be profitably advanced for use in space? How will we coordinate strategic space investments across government agencies? What other benefits for humankind lie in space exploration and in establishing a permanent off-world civilization? Join us as we consider the opportunities and challenges that we face as the world takes steps into its off-world future.

Engineering the 21st Century Space Workforce

One of the most important conversations around future technology is how to grow the breadth and depth of the community engaged in inventing, building, and maintaining our future in space. The Education and Workforce session on Monday, November 16th will bring thought leaders from academia and industry together to focus on this topic. Current trends, future requirements and lessons learned will be discussed.

Part 1: Dialogue with the Deans
This roundtable session (10:00-10:55 am) with leaders of some of the top engineering programs in the country will explore how the aerospace community can engage the brightest minds into our enterprise, bring them into careers that accelerate the building of our off-world future, and retain top innovators throughout their career.

Part 2: Practitioners Panel
This panel session (11:05 am -12:00) with leaders and hiring managers of leading space companies and will explore the changing needs of the aerospace workforce and novel ways to reach out to more diverse groups.

Earth Observation as a Global Good

Earth Observation has been undeniable as a source of truth since the launch of LandSat in 1972 watching as humanity has nearly tripled its population and terraformed our planet.  Observations from space and made available as a global good has allowed for numerous civil society benefits.  As we enter a new decade and 10 years left to achieve the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals, join this session to hear from systems-change project that utilize remote sensing data to help make progress to meet the Global Goals.

From Moonshot to Moonbase: Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Lunar Architectures and Infrastructures

We’re back focused on the Moon but is this focus here to stay? It will be if we can develop agreement on why we need to go back to the Moon, this time to stay. NASA’s Artemis architecture provides a good framework for getting started, but how will we develop a permanent presence on the Moon? What are the technological challenges? What economical drivers are most likely to lead to a permanent presence on the Moon? And what can we do now to maximize our learning on the Moon for future exploration and settlement of Mars?

Space Structures at Scale

As LEO commercialization moves from cautious early entrants to a burgeoning global effort, we’ll need space structures built at scale—for government labs, academic research, industry R&D, and space tourism. These structures will need all the considerations of resource-constrained habitats on Earth (power generation and construction optimization, sustainable and closed-loop life support, interior space allocation, user-centric design, and more), while also relying on the rigors of aerospace engineering to survive in the unique challenges of the space environment. Listen to the leading minds in construction at mega-scale, to the architects, urban planners, and space engineers who will finally realize humanity’s centuries-old ambition of living in space habitats amongst the stars.

Reusable Launch Vehicles: Five years into the reusable space age

Before November 2015, no rocket had ever flown to space and then landed vertically on Earth to be used again. Now, two companies, SpaceX and Blue Origin, are refining this approach, while other companies remain focused on the traditional approach. Join experts from industry and government to share what we’ve learned from these first 5 years of the RLV age, and what challenges lie ahead.

Transformative Technologies to Drive Exploration

The space community is investing in the future by advancing capabilities and developing the transformative technologies required to unlock a sustainable presence on the Moon, as well as the exploration of Mars and other destinations that await. Engage with leaders from NASA, industry, and academia as we explore the opportunities and challenges on the cutting-edge of this research.

Future of Space Medicine

With human spaceflight expanding into the epoch of exploration-class missions, the way in which we go about training our astronauts and crew medical officers needs to evolve accordingly—as do the medical capabilities, technologies and infrastructures associated with long-duration missions to distant locales. How does space medicine need to adapt, and how do we build medical infrastructure for long-duration missions? From existing to emerging to pie-in-the-sky technologies, what medical capabilities should a long-duration mission to the Moon, Mars or beyond include? How can space agencies support new medical paradigms? How do remote communities on Earth stand to benefit from innovations for space? Join our panelists as we talk all about the future of space medicine—from the here-and-now to “science fiction” type ideas waiting to become reality.

Enough already about Air Mail: What NASA is doing to commercialize space access

The Commercial Orbital Transportation Systems (COTS, or “commercial cargo”) program began the era of commercialization in Low Earth Orbit. Join Kathy Lueders and a panel of experts to talk about the successes and lessons learned from the commercial crew and cargo delivery programs and the more recent studies of commercial LEO platforms. Learn what this team did collectively, how they did it, and what it means for the future of space development. What can we learn to ensure our success as we transition to the future of commercial LEO platforms and exploration of the Moon and Mars?

National Security and Policy

National security and policy implications are vital considerations at each point of current and future space development. What are the needs of the warfighter as new threats emerge and how do we match the speed of the threat? Hear senior US Space Force leaders comment on how the newest military service is doing in year one of their existence. Join us to discuss how space will integrate with other domains to deliver new capabilities and stay ahead of our adversaries. Participate in an industry/government session on the changes needed in the acquisition process to go faster. Policy makers and the academic community will address space traffic management and the peaceful use of space for all through policy, regulation and enforcement. We will also run interactive sessions to address topics like space domain management, cybersecurity, cloud computing and Earth observation as instruments to further our ability to develop and protect this critical domain.

Space Traffic Management: Towards Orbital Safety, Security, and Sustainability

As the traffic on orbit increases, there is a growing need for orbital safety, operational security, and both environmental and operational sustainability. Join us at the main stage for a series of curated talks that will take on the challenge of space traffic management from the perspective of academia, commerce, government, and technology.

Cat’s out of the Bag: Harnessing Commercial Earth Observation for Global Security

Earth Observation has been a strategic capability for nations in the 20th century for surveillance and reconnaissance.  With information asymmetry, actors with space assets have an advantage.  With the trends of the last decade, this information asymmetry will not lead to the military advantage it once had especially with new commercial systems available.  Join us for a peace and security panel and the transformation underway for how the US government shifts its approach with this changing landscape.

The Next Great Hack: Cybersecurity Risks and Mitigations

Today more than ever, our daily lives rely on the satellite networks 22,000 miles above the Earth. Ensuring the security of these systems is vital not only to our economies but also to the safety of our nations against threats. This session addresses the critical issues that must be addressed and the role of public and private enterprise in space cybersecurity.

Ad Coelum: A Symposium on Space Policy and Law

This session is focused on the legal implications of future space endeavors, with a specific intended outcome of convening a group of experts from all relevant areas to lay the foundation for the needed legal systems in our off-world future.

Principles of Production

A workshop series on unearthing the potential of space resource utilization through the development of technologies, applications, policies, and standards.

Life as We Know It

A deep dive into supporting physical, mental, and emotional health in space through the advancement of habitat technologies and design, medical knowledge and instrumentation, and the application of analog environment testing.

Global Perspectives

Discussion and analysis of the national policies of leading and emerging space-faring nations, including topic areas such as economic development and stimulus, national security postures, and opportunities for cooperation.

Addressing Science Priorities

Discussion and analysis of opportunities for the space community to rapidly advance toward meeting national and international science goals.

Become an ASCEND speaker

The ASCEND Call for Content is open through 17 March 2020 and is accepting proposal for technical papers, tutorials, case studies, session leadership, and more in the following areas:

  • Defining the Space Economy
  • Education, Outreach, and Workforce Development
  • Information Systems and Software
  • National Science Priorities
  • National Security Space
  • Propulsion
  • Space Exploration Architectures and Enabling Infrastructures
  • Space Life Sciences and Systems
  • Space Policy and Law
  • Space Resource Utilization
  • Space Traffic Management and Integration
  • Transformative Research and Technologies
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Bobby Braun

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