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AIAA Announces 2023 ASCEND Guiding Coalition Comprised of Prominent Leaders Across the Aerospace Community and Adjacent Industries

June 26, 2023 – Reston, Va. – The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) is proud to announce the 44 members of the 2023 ASCEND Guiding Coalition who represent a diverse mix of leading aerospace companies, government agencies, and academic institutions, each with a shared commitment to the mission of ASCEND to Accelerate Space Commerce, Exploration, and New Discovery.

The ASCEND Guiding Coalition is an advisory board of technology, science, engineering, and business leaders selected to help maximize ASCEND’s reach and impact, including the design and content of its centerpiece annual event. 2023 ASCEND is scheduled for 23–25 October, Caesars Forum, Las Vegas, focused on building our sustainable off-world future through collaboration.

“The members of the ASCEND Guiding Coalition bring a wealth of experience and expertise as leaders in commercial space operations, government space policy, science and technology policy, new entrepreneurial ventures, and business strategy. We are thrilled for their involvement so we can build our off-world future faster,” said Julie Van Kleeck, ASCEND Executive Producer and AIAA Space Domain Lead.

The members of the 2023 ASCEND Guiding Coalition are:

  • Sirisha Bandla, Vice President, Government Affairs, Virgin Galactic
  • Bill Beckman, Director, NASA Programs, Boeing Global Sales and Marketing
  • Tejpaul Bhatia, Chief Revenue Officer, Axiom Space
  • Robert (Bobby) D. Braun, Head, Space Exploration Sector, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
  • Tory Bruno, CEO, United Launch Alliance
  • Lt. Gen. DeAnna Burt, Deputy Chief of Space Operations for Operations, Cyber, and Nuclear, United States Space Force*
  • Steven (Bucky) J. Butow, Director, Space Portfolio, Defense Innovation Unit (DIU)*
  • Johnathon Caldwell, Vice President and General Manager, Military Space, Lockheed Martin
  • Ahsan Choudhuri, Associate Vice President for Aerospace Center and Professor of Mechanical Engineering, University of Texas at El Paso
  • Carissa Christensen, CEO, BryceTech
  • Sandra Connelly, Deputy Associate Administrator, Science Mission Directorate, NASA*
  • Michael Costas, General Manager, Defense and Space, Bechtel Nuclear, Security & Environmental
  • Laura Crabtree, Chief Executive Officer, Epsilon3
  • Kara Cunzeman, Lead Futurist, Strategic Foresight, The Aerospace Corporation
  • Robert Curbeam, Senior Vice President, Space Capture, Maxar
  • Dan Dumbacher, Executive Director, AIAA
  • Ariel Ekblaw, Director, Space Exploration Initiative, MIT Media Lab
  • Carol Erikson, Vice President, Digital Transformation, Space Systems, Northrop Grumman*
  • Debra Facktor, Head of U.S. Space Systems, Airbus U.S. Space and Defense, Inc.
  • James Free, Associate Administrator, Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate, NASA
  • Michael Gazarik, Vice President, Engineering, Ball Aerospace
  • Bill Gerstenmaier, Vice President, Build and Flight Reliability, SpaceX
  • Phillip Ingle, Manager Director, Morgan Stanley
  • Lt. Gen. Larry James, USAF (Ret.), Deputy Director, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory*
  • Steve Jurczyk, Co-Founder and CEO, Quantum Space*
  • Janet Kavandi, President, Sierra Space*
  • Joe Landon, CEO, Crescent Space
  • Sandra Magnus, Principal, Astroplanetview, LLC
  • Clare Martin, Executive Vice President, Astroscale U.S.*
  • Jim Maser, Senior Vice President, Space, Aerojet Rocketdyne
  • Rob Meyerson, CEO, Delalune Space
  • Mark Mozena, Vice President, Government Affairs, Planet Federal*
  • Todd Nygren, Senior Vice President, Engineering and Technology Group, The Aerospace Corporation
  • Shawna Pandya, Director, Space Medicine Group, International Institute for Astronautical Sciences (IIAS)
  • Lt. Gen. John Shaw, Deputy Commander, U.S. Space Command*
  • Wanda Sigur, President, Lambent Engineering LLC
  • Lauren Smith, Senior Program Manager, Satellite Servicing, Northrop Grumman
  • Melanie Stricklan, CEO & Co-Founder, Slingshot Aerospace
  • Russ Teehan, Principal Solutions Architect, Government Satellite Systems, Amazon
  • Derek Tournear, Director, Space Development Agency
  • Julie Van Kleeck, ASCEND Executive Producer and AIAA Space Domain Lead
  • Matthew C. Weinzierl, Senior Associate Dean and Chair, MBA Program; Joseph and Jacqueline Elbling Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School*
  • Vanessa Wyche, Director, NASA Johnson Space Center

Registration for 2023 ASCEND is open now. Journalists from around the world are invited to cover the event; press passes are available for credentialed media by request.

*New Members in 2023

Media Contact: Rebecca Gray,, 804-397-5270 cell

Powered by AIAA, ASCEND, which stands for Accelerating Space Commerce, Exploration, and New Discovery, is the world’s premier collaborative, outcomes-driven, interdisciplinary community designed to accelerate the building of our off-world future. For more information, visit, or follow ASCEND on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

About AIAA
The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) is the world’s largest aerospace technical society. With nearly 30,000 individual members from 91 countries, and 100 corporate members, AIAA brings together industry, academia, and government to advance engineering and science in aviation, space, and defense. For more information, visit, or follow AIAA on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

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