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14th ISPCS to focus on ‘next level’ of commercial space travel

After years of advancements, the commercial spaceflight industry is approaching a “tipping point.” This fall, leaders and experts in the commercial space industry will gather in Las Cruces for the 14th annual International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight to discuss the progress in space travel technologies, investments and policies.


Woman speaks to crowd from podium.
Patricia Hynes, curator of the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight, speaks at last year’s symposium in Las Cruces. This year’s symposium is scheduled for Oct. 10-11. (Courtesy photo by Heriberto Ibarra)

Themed “The Tipping Point,” this year’s ISPCS will take place Oct. 10-11 at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum, 4100 Dripping Springs Road, in Las Cruces.

Since its founding, ISPCS has been held in partnership with the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium, which is based at New Mexico State University and part of the congressionally funded National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program.

“When we look at tipping points, we’re looking at technologies and systems that are advancing beyond development and into commercialization due to large investments by the public and private sectors,” said Patricia Hynes, ISPCS curator.

“A tipping point is a moment that can create total change in the environment,” she said. “That is what we’re talking about right now. There are policies being created by the federal government now that will make it easier and potentially more affordable to access space for many users. There will be speakers who are addressing these topics and the impacts they will have on our nation.”

Billed as the “industry standard” for commercial spaceflight conferences, according to its website, ISPCS brings together industry leaders, academics and those curious about outer space travel for two days of intense networking and lively panel discussions from a group of hand-selected speakers. Hynes founded ISPCS in 2005, the year of the first symposium.

Carefully curated by Hynes, this year’s group of speakers features about two dozen space industry professionals, experts, academics and government officials. The list includes the son of an Apollo 11 astronaut and a United States government official, who will offer details into new efforts to defend American interests in outer space.

Jared Stout, the executive deputy secretary and chief of staff for the National Space Council, is expected to attend the symposium to discuss the Trump administration’s proposed sixth branch of the U.S. military that would be dedicated to national security in outer space.

Stout’s visit to Las Cruces comes on the heels of President Donald Trump’s announcement in June that he would direct the Pentagon to create the nation’s first Space Force.

Andrew Aldrin, the son of Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, also will speak at the symposium. An associate professor at Florida Institute of Technology, the younger Aldrin serves as the director of the International Space University-Center for Space Entrepreneurship and Commerce and the Aldrin Space Institute, a multidisciplinary institute created to advance commercial space development.

Other speakers include George T. Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic, and The Spaceship Company; Benjamin “Benji” Reed, director of crew mission management at SpaceX; and many others such as NASA representatives and academics, including first-time ISPCS speaker Matthew Weinzierl, a professor developing a commercial space focused program at Harvard Business School.

This year, NMSU faculty and students also will participate in the symposium’s opening ceremony, Hynes said. A jazz quartet led by Frank “Pancho” Romero, professor in NMSU’s Department of Music, will perform, she said.

ISPCS is open to the public, especially students with interests in space, Hynes said.

“They’re critical consumers of information,” she said of students.

Hynes said students who have attended ISPCS in the past have landed jobs in the space industry and received funding for projects through networking at the symposium.

Registration to attend this year’s ISPCS is required and currently underway at https://ispcs.com/register/. Discounts are available for students, active-duty military members and anyone who registers before Aug. 17. Scholarships for New Mexico students are also available through ISPCS. For more information, email kcoogler@nmsu.edu.

For detailed information about this year’s ISPCS agenda and speakers, visit https://ispcs.com.