Ideas may be out of this world, but they are firmly rooted in a new reality. Space industry leaders gather together for their annual meeting of minds at the Fourth North American Space Summit (NASS) in Traverse City.
“You have technologists, engineers, manufacturers, and academics all coming together to talk about the space business,” says Mike Carey, co-founder of Space Operations and COO of ATLAS. “It’s great to see people really excited about what they do. From this grows a greater enthusiasm and interest in space projects.”
The two-day summit includes presentations and panel discussions on a variety of issues facing the space industry, including technology, infrastructure, space missions and commercial opportunities. ATLAS Space Operations, based in Traverse City, says it’s a valuable opportunity for a growing industry. “When we envisioned Atlas as a company, we were very focused on providing a completely new solution for satellite communications. What we didn’t expect was the growth and outreach that we would be a part of,” says Carey.
ATLAS just received a $26 million investment from Japan’s Mitsui Corporation, which will spur domestic growth in the space economy. “The investment was led by a Japanese conglomerate, Mitsui. We are their third investment in space… It also demonstrates the strength of the investment community’s commitment to the space project,” says Carey.
It’s not just about advances in outer space, but how this research can help the quality of life here on Earth, says the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association (MAMA) says. “Space technologies will actually help us with the standard of living that we all enjoy,” says Gavin Brown of MAMA. “Things like climate monitoring… medical, telecommunications…. Part of these technologies are discussed here.”
The Space Summit is a great place for leaders to talk about current issues facing the space industry, but it’s also a great opportunity to talk about the future. In just a few years, Brown says, the industry’s future will flourish. “It really takes off in 2025. The growing pattern is accelerating in 2025 to become a significant contribution to not only the environment that the contributors are in, but you will see a dominance of those regions that are involved.”
Recent events, such as images from the Webb Telescope and NASA’s mission to crash the DART spacecraft into an asteroid, are stirring excitement among industry professionals and the general public. “The things that are happening right now are amazing. You have Firefly Space, just launched its first rocket. You have the SLS Mars mission, the asteroid impact mission. The space enterprise is growing and growing, from one envelope to the next,” Curry says.
“Learning about the universe, this space is investigated by the satellites and sensors that we send out, it’s really helped us figure out how we are in this universe. But also bringing this technology back into the way we live better on Earth,” Brown adds.
Victoria Machtli concurs with this view. She works with the architecture firm RS&H. “I think it definitely inspires the younger generation. We have more students who are becoming more interested, and we realize there is more to being an astronaut. You can be in the industry like me. I have nothing to do with engineering. I am marketing and sales. I work in this wonderful industry.” Because there are more than just engineering aspects, there are more astronauts, more than science. There’s funding, there’s legal. There are all these different avenues for you to get involved in space.”
And NASS is not just about today’s leaders, but tomorrow’s leaders. One of the discussion sessions will include a workshop, and will focus on young women entering the aviation industry, and how we can mentor and guide them through their careers, she says. “What is here despite the growing interest in the aviation industry within Michigan. And Michigan really wants to bring in and keep its students and space students in the state. They don’t want them to go to Florida or California or any other state that is growing in the field of aviation. We want to keep them here. .
“More women are graduating in engineering fields than ever before. So, in order to keep them here, we will be able to prepare to mentor and engage them early on, because they want to advance through their careers,” says Mashtli.
It is a profession that is out of this world in a frontier that is no longer new. Says Carey, “It’s a global organization and we’re very proud to be a part of it.”
Also on the agenda of the Space Summit is a discussion of space defense and the new US Space Force. The Northern Michigan Corporation will participate in the mission. It’s called KMI, an orbital debris research and solutions company. In layman’s terms, a lot of what they do is recover space junk like old satellites and debris from rockets. KMI has a research contract with the US Space Force and operates from its headquarters in Marquette.
“NASS is such a great event for us because we are able to connect with colleagues in person. It’s a little difficult to always meet your neighbors when there are sometimes two acres in between. So, being able to bring the state together, but also across the country and the world,” says Troy Morris. Co-founder and COO of KMI, It’s Bringing North America Together.” So if you’ve got an aerospace corner, NASS is the place for you every year.”
KMI says the amount of space debris is constantly increasing, threatening the integrity of vital space infrastructure on which the world depends.
From their website: Orbital debris is growing exponentially, threatening the vital space infrastructure on which the world depends. Debris can be basketball-sized objects capable of destroying a single satellite or massive missile objects that can lead to cascading collisions of untraceable and deadly debris fragments.