Call for Sessions

Organize and Lead a Collaborative Session

Submission Opens 4 February — Closes 2000hrs EDT on 7 April

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Collaborative communities are continuing forums where public and private sector members proactively work together to develop deeper understanding of issues, to achieve common objectives and outcomes, to solve shared challenges, and to leverage collective opportunities in an environment of trust, respect, empathy, and openness.

The 2022 ASCEND collaborative program invites proposals focused on advances spanning the art and science of space technology, exploration, economics, and more. The expansive scope of subjects are represented through the Session Topics.

Of particular interest are proposals that clearly connect to ASCEND’s theme of “Building Our Off-World Future”, as well as proposals that address the utilization of space assets to better understand and combat global climate change and the protection of our Space Assets now and in the future.

By design, the 2022 ASCEND Call for Content (CFC) is written at a higher-level to promote greater diversity and freedom of important content to be offered.

The goal of the collaborative sessions is to spur large-scale discussions of the trends, economic forces, and technical challenges facing every member of the space ecosystem across a broad range of disciplines, represented by the Session Topics or related topics.

Proposals will undergo review and disposition by 2022 ASCEND Collaborative Program Chairs and AIAA, and must meet all applicable requirements described in the submission form. The most successful proposals will closely align with the description of their chosen Session Topic.

Session Formats

ASCEND is building a collaborative community for the discussion and analysis of the best ideas and greatest challenges in the exploration and development of space. Organizers may select from the topics and formats described.

Debate Icon transparent
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.”
Panel 1
A moderated discussion between a small group of experts with audience participation through Q&A.
Workshop 1
An interactive participation by attendees and roundtable facilitators to collaboratively probe issues and leverage collective experiences to develop a deeper, shared understanding.
STEAM Education and Outreach
An interactive learning session that includes the participation of K-12 students (please see the Education, Outreach, and Workforce Development topic description for more information).
Town Hall 1
Town Hall
A gathering of a community around a central topic for discussion and planning that includes high levels of attendee participation in open discussion.
Tutorial 1
An interactive learning sessions that includes the participation of attendees and may award certification or continuing education credits.
Unconference 1
A collaborative session in which attendees are dispersed into small groups to discuss a central topic/theme, focused on developing outcomes, and capturing the collective wisdom/ideation

General Submission Requirements

All proposed sessions should strive to include diverse representation of both demographics and perspectives. All collaborative session participants are required to be registered for ASCEND and organizers will receive information about registration options upon acceptance. Organizers will be asked to select their preference to participate virtually or in-person. This preference will not impact the review process nor will it guarantee placement in either format.


Participant Information
Full name, institution, and email address for all session organizers and a list of proposed speakers

Submission Details 
Title, topic, duration, and session format

Session Description
Detailed written proposal that includes the session goals, content, and agenda

If you have questions about submission topics, please reach out to one of the 2022 ASCEND Collaborative Program Chairs:

Session Topics

Defining the Space Economy ↓

  • Recent analysis suggest that a fully developed space-based economy is poised to dwarf the current economic activities on Earth. Realizing the full promise and possibility of that growth—a forecasted $1 trillion globally by 2040—demands bringing together business leaders, academics, innovators, investors, technical experts, government stakeholders and decision-makers to envision, design, and build the future of space commerce, together.
  • One of the primary goals of ASCEND is to facilitate that collaboration by expanding the opportunity for participation and, ultimately, the collection of industries that are included in the definition of the space economy. The commercial space ecosystem must transcend the aerospace and defense industries to include a much broader range of adjacent interests, such as agriculture, construction, IT, telecommunications, hospitality and tourism, food and beverage, fashion, and more.
  • To achieve this expansion, there is an immediate need for new ideas, investment in promising ideas, and support for critical infrastructure and capabilities. ASCEND will be the platform, working with other national and international professional organizations, to engage relevant stakeholders and interested parties in this discussion.
  • An increased emphasis will be placed on interdisciplinary submissions that incorporate education, public outreach, policy and law, manufacturing, operations, economic factors, supply chain management, international partnerships, public-private partnerships, and technical standards.
  • Individuals, organizations, and subject matter experts are also encouraged to propose sessions on space-related commercial stimulation initiatives, such as SBIR/STTR programs, technology incubators and accelerators, business plan and pitch development, and technology transfer programs.

Education, Outreach, and Workforce Development ↓

  • This topic is an expansive zone of ASCEND that includes technical papers, case studies, professional development activities, and outreach opportunities. Areas of interest for Workforce Development are expanded beyond traditional career topics to include new dynamic areas of impact including autonomy, MBSE and the digital workforce. ASCEND will extend the knowledge exchange inherent in conferences and workshops to the aerospace workforce to enhance their abilities and skill sets for the future. This will help to create an engineering workforce pipeline of information to solve real aerospace challenges.
  • STEM education investment is critical for preparing the world’s workforce to fuel the economy of the future. STEM public and private organizations are leveraging space programs to educate children as part of improving the scientific literacy. ASCEND welcomes sessions on programs, methods, and policy discussions on STEM as it relates to space.
  • Initiatives and programs come and go, often without any documented analysis to verify their effectiveness. Examples of successful activities, in-depth analyses of educational programs, outreach initiatives, and workforce development programs will help to identify what is and is not working. AIAA sections, external organizations, conference organizers, and others who have conducted education, outreach, and workforce development activities are strongly encouraged to propose sessions that highlight their efforts.
  • Software vendors, university faculty, and subject matter experts are encouraged to propose training and/or certification sessions on space-related topics, in areas such as computer aided design (CAD), computational fluid dynamics (CFD), computer aided engineering (CAE), requirements management, ITAR/EAR compliance, thermal/structural analysis, trajectory analysis, numerical computing tools, programming languages, cloud computing, and applications of machine learning and data science. Consideration will also be given to tutorials on non-technical skills, such public speaking, leadership, or project management.
  • AIAA will also partner with student organizations, youth-serving organizations, schools, community organizations, individuals, and others to use the platform of ASCEND as a means to engage both local and remote youth in space-focused activities. Providers should propose to conduct activities at ASCEND that are hands-on and engage youth in a manner that transfers aerospace education, creates excitement, and promotes STEAM-based space career paths. AIAA is especially interested in partnering with youth-serving organizations that impact underrepresented student populations.

Earth’s Environment and Climate Change ↓

  • The nature and effects of climate change are measured through scientific observations from a variety of platforms.  Discussions are invited that highlight the advantages and opportunities of space-based environmental sensing technologies.  The aggregation and sharing of the gathered data are of interest to increase environmental domain awareness and inform policymaking.
  • The awe-inspiring capability and rapid growth within the space enterprise suggests a discussion of sustainability might be needed.  The need to promote a comprehensive understanding of the intersection between the space enterprise and maintenance of a suitable environment for Earth and other bodies is of interest. This includes both the impacts that the space enterprise have on global environments and the risks that a changing climate impose on the space enterprise. Understanding the impact that spaceflight has on planetary environments and the risks to spaceflight from changing environments are fundamental for a sustainable, safe, and economical multi-planet astronautics industry.

Information Systems and Software ↓

  • The scope of the Information Systems and Software track broadly includes all aspects of architecture, design, development, operations, and maintenance of information systems for space applications. Specific areas of interest include commercial offerings that provide communications and PNT for cislunar space; replacement for the Deep Space Network (DSN); computing platforms that enable large networks of autonomous systems to inter-operate; transition of commercial power (batteries, fuel cells) and electronics to space applications; and applications of AI, machine learning, and data science to spacecraft operations.
  • Institutions and individuals are encouraged to propose panels and interactive workshops focused on communications systems, computer systems, cybersecurity, digital avionics, information and command and control systems, intelligent systems, human-machine teaming systems, model-based systems engineering, sensor systems and information fusion, and software.

Managing Information From, Through, and In Space ↓

  • A large number of space-based services such as remote sensing, communications and Global Navigation Satellite Systems support Earth-based applications.  The nature of these applications has significantly changed over the past few years.   Proliferated LEO (pLEO) constellations with proposed cross links will make those services much more available, while the massive amounts of remote sensing data have transformed those services from data-focused to information-focused applications.
  • ASCEND welcomes session proposals focused on pLEO, remote sensing applications, Position, Navigation and Timing and new information-centric architectures.  Discussions on break-through applications and services are also sought.  Information security is also an important topic for consideration.

National Science Priorities ↓

  • Throughout human history, we have pondered the great mysteries, such as the formation of the universe and our solar system, the existence of life on other planets, and how we can better understand the complex systems of the Earth. Within the past century, however, advances in space technology have allowed us to make great leaps in our understanding of these and other scientific frontiers.
  • As we seek to further accelerate the growth of the space economy and make strides toward our off-world future, it is imperative that we leverage the resultant new technologies and capabilities to continue to address the most crucial scientific questions that remain unanswered. This topic seeks to focus attention on these questions, as prioritized by the scientific community in publications such as the U.S. decadal surveys, and to identify opportunities and challenges that can be addressed through increased activities and human presence in space.

National Security Space ↓

  • ASCEND seeks dialogue-generating panels and workshops to foster outcomes shaping the future utilization and protection of space. Space activities support all aspects of daily life, thus the overlap between efforts to produce value in space, efforts to manage the increasingly crowded space domain, and efforts to protect our ability to operate freely in space form a nexus for the space community.
  • ASCEND wishes to form sessions around space-based capabilities, sensor and system technologies, space traffic management, space domain awareness, and the protection of space assets. Content covering cislunar ventures provides insights into the growth beyond the traditional Earth orbit focus.
  • Additionally, experiences in commercialization partnerships and public private partnerships inform the evolution and approaches to providing the systems necessary to protect, defend, and enable the continued open use of space for the benefit of all humankind in an environment in that is becoming increasingly crowded, dangerous, and essential.

Space Access and Propulsion ↓

  • Affordable, efficient, and innovative propulsion systems are an essential factor for growing the space economy and enabling exploration. Exploiting new designs, fuels, materials, and manufacturing technologies will allow for novel mission architectures, spacecraft concepts, and system-level improvements.
  • Sessions are solicited that relate to all aspects of propulsion systems, including component and system-level design, material development/selection, manufacturing, testing, ballistic prediction methodologies, performance evaluation, and state-of-the art technology advancements.
  • Additional areas of interest include overviews of historical propulsion systems, lessons learned from development, testing and flight experience, and the status of upcoming systems/programs.

Space Exploration: Defining Events, Architectures, and Systems ↓

  • The exploration of the solar system and the eventual permanent human settlement on another space body are all topics of interest that will impact human life for generations to come. ASCEND welcomes specific and interdisciplinary workshops and discussions on all aspects of space exploration architecture, enabling technologies, and infrastructures to be proposed.
  • Primary focus areas include low Earth orbit, cislunar space, and the surface of the moon and Mars; however, discussions associated with other destinations are welcome.
  • Of particular interest are the related issues of affordability and sustainability. There is a high interest in sessions that not only discuss new and unique architectures, but also contextualize them in an implementable framework that holds potential to become part of a long-term exploration strategy.

Space Life Sciences and Systems ↓

  • Economical, human exploration of deep space will demand robust space systems with effective solutions for mitigating human health risks. Cost-effective and integrated solutions for space systems could evolve from technologies and capabilities that currently support terrestrial markets and may leverage lessons learned from closed biomes. These advanced and robust systems need to be reliable, resilient, and recoverable, and can include habitats, ECLSS, communications, medical/behavioral health accommodations, gravity simulation and more. ASCEND seeks to bring together space researchers, habitat architects, and designers with visionary engineers and scientists addressing UN sustainability goals to advance the state of the art in service of space and terrestrial applications.

Space Logistics, Autonomy, and Robotics ↓

  • The future of space exploration will include the extensive use of automated systems and robotics. ASCEND welcomes session proposals that promote the discussion of how these systems will be designed, manufactured, and implemented for orbital and planetary surface missions.
  • Panels and interactive workshops that explore advanced technologies, such as automation and artificial intelligence, machine vision and learning, and augmented reality systems are of particular interest, as are sessions that explore applications and mission architectures.

Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion ↓

  • Recent U.S. presidential directives (National Security Presidential Memorandum 20, Space Policy Directive 6) are reflective of a reinvigorated interest in space nuclear power and propulsion systems.  Such systems can enable missions where electrical power from solar arrays and propulsive power from consumable chemical propellants are not feasible.  Discussions on a range of technologies which involve nuclear material (such as radioisotope power systems, and reactors used for power or propulsion in spacecraft, rovers, and other surface elements) are desired.  Sessions should place particular emphasis on addressing the safe and responsible launch, operation, reentry, and ultimate disposal of such systems, including technical feasibility and societal acceptance of these technologies.

Space Policy and Law ↓

  • Someday soon, space colonies and deep space exploration will be a reality. There have been numerous discussions of large-scale facilities, and settlements that in the long-term may even include terraforming a planet to make it more hospitable for humans to colonize. Yet, for space commerce to thrive we will need to develop space policy and laws that are fair and equitable for the explorers as well as their sponsors. ASCEND welcomes sessions that will examine how the present and future aspects of space policy and law may evolve in the years to come to enable a great expansion of human activity in outer space.
  • Discussions pertaining to the clarity and certainty for the authorization and continuing supervision of non-governmental space activities, including novel activities such as on-orbit servicing, orbital debris removal, space-based manufacturing, commercial human spaceflight, and recovery and use of space resources are also welcome. Sessions on space policies, regulations, export controls, and other measures that govern commercial activities would also be welcome.  Conversations regarding international rules and norms of behavior in space are of particular interest.

Space Resource Utilization ↓

  • Following many precedents in the history of human civilization, our era of exploration and short-term presence of space will be followed by the desire to increase and sustain human presence on off-Earth worlds and the expanses in between. This transition to economically sustainable settlements outside of Earth through the use of local resources requires a change in paradigms about the capabilities and lifecycles of space systems and the synergistic engagement of many disciplines.
  • ASCEND will serve as a catalytic event for professionals and students to bring forth essential questions and challenges facing the establishment of reliable in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) on the moon and Mars as a priority. Experts from both terrestrial and space-focused industries, government agencies and academia are invited to propose interdisciplinary sessions that will examine the near- and long-term development and deployment of technologies and systems for space resources utilization integrated with other enabling space-based architectures.

Space Traffic Management, Space Domain Awareness, and Integration ↓

  • Vehicle traffic going into space, Earth orbit, and beyond has grown significantly in the last decade. The diversity of today’s space traffic has increased dramatically over the last 50 years and now includes a variety of companies and nations with different goals, motives, and business/operating models. As growth continues, there is an increasing need to ensure access to space and safe operations from initial launch of the vehicle through mission completion. ASCEND seeks to provide a collaborative forum to advance these issues related to technologies, operations, regulations, and standards development for commercial, governmental (civil and military), or educational applications.
  • In conjunction with the Space Policy and Law topic, sessions are invited to assess the appropriate roles of organizations (international bodies, national governments, and nongovernmental organizations, etc.) in providing space situational awareness, traffic management, and control services.  Regulatory clarity regarding the on-orbit authorities of U.S. Government agencies – as-yet largely undefined by legislation – is a timely subject.  Discussions on evolving regulatory frameworks and priority preferences for air traffic operations amidst the increasing launch/reentry cadence are of particular interest.

Transformative Research and Technologies ↓

  • What lies beyond the technologies that we envision using over the next decades for a return to the moon and follow-on missions to Mars? Which emerging technologies will transform space transportation as we know it? How might space materials and systems be harnessed to address our greatest challenges on Earth? We live in a time where today’s research has the capacity to answer questions like these and lead to radically new technologies that revolutionize our existing models, dramatically drive down costs, and enable new opportunities.
  • In 1865, Jules Vern imagined a world where traveling to space was a reality. A century and a half later, we are poised to envision a future that lies beyond our current technologies and that will shift our existing paradigms in the coming centuries. Science fiction writers shape the future with their imaginations. Scientists and engineers create the future with our work. ASCEND welcomes session proposals focused on transformative research of high risk and potentially high reward. Revolutionary ideas, research, breakthroughs, and discoveries that will accelerate the building of our off-world future – not just incremental growth, but order of magnitude transformations in the human experience beyond Earth.

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