Space Industry Experts Gravitate to Space Summit in Traverse City
“It’s a global enterprise and we’re just so proud to be part of it.” – Mike Carey
The ideas may be out of this world, but they’re firmly grounded in a new reality. Leaders in the space industry are coming together for their annual meeting of the minds at the fourth North American Space Summit (NASS) in Traverse City.
“You’ve got technologists, you’ve got engineers, you’ve got manufacturers, you’ve got academicians, all getting together to talk about the business of space,” says ATLAS Space Operations Co-Founder and COO Mike Carey. “It’s cool to see people really passionate about what they’re doing. And from that grows excitement and a greater interest in space enterprise.”
The two-day long summit includes presentations and panels on a variety of issues facing the space industry, including technology, infrastructure, space missions, and commercial opportunities. ATLAS Space Operations, which is based in Traverse City, says it’s a valuable opportunity for a growing industry. “When we envisioned ATLAS as a company we were super-focused on providing a brand new solution for satellite communications. What we didn’t anticipate was the growth and the expanse that we’d be a part of,” Carey says.
ATLAS just received a $26 million dollar investment from Mitsui, a Japanese company, that will spur local growth in the space economy. Carey says, “The investment was led by a Japanese conglomerate, Mitsui. We are their third investment into space… It further demonstrates the strength of the investment community’s commitment to space enterprise.”
The Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association (MAMA) says it’s not just about advances in outer space, but how that research can help the quality of life here on earth. “The technologies of space actually will help us with the standard of living that we all enjoy,” says MAMA’s Gavin Brown. “Things such as climate monitoring… medical, communications…. Part of those technologies are discussed here.”
The Space Summit is a great place for leaders to talk about the present issues facing the space industry but it’s also a great opportunity to talk about the future. Brown says the future of the industry will be booming in just a few years’ time. “It really takes off in 2025. The grown pattern accelerates in 2025 to become a major contribution to not only the environment that the contributors are in, but you’ll see a dominance for those areas that participate.”
Recent events, like the images from the Webb telescope and NASA’s mission to crash the DART spacecraft into an asteroid, are fueling excitement among industry professionals and the general public. “The things that are happening right now are amazing. You’ve got Firefly Space, just launched their first rocket. You’ve got the SLS Mars Mission, the asteroid impact mission. From one bookend to the other the space enterprise is just growing and growing,” Carey says.
“Learning about the universe, that space is being investigated by with the satellites and the probes that we’re sending out, really has enlightened us to really how we exist in this universe. But also bringing that technology back to how we live better on earth,” Brown adds.
Victoria Mechtly agrees. She’s with the architecture and engineering firm RS&H. “I think it absolutely inspires a younger generation. We’re having more students become more interested, and realize there’s more to space than being an astronaut. You can be in the industry, like I am. I have nothing to do with engineering. I’m marketing and sales. I get to work in this incredible industry. Because there’s more than just engineering sides, there’s more than astronauts, more than science. There’s finance, there’s legal. There’s all these different avenues for you to be involved in space.”
And NASS is not just about today’s leaders, but the leaders of tomorrow. One panel discussion will include Mechtly, and will “focus on young women entering the aerospace industry, and how we can mentor them and guide them through their career,” she says. “What is here though is the growing interest of the aerospace industry within Michigan. And Michigan really wants to bring, keep their students, their aerospace students in the state. They don’t want them going to Florida or California or any other states that are growing in aerospace. We want to keep them here.
“More women are graduating from engineering fields than ever before. So to keep them here we’re going to have the leadership prepared for mentoring them and engaging them early on, as they want to progress through their career,” Mechtly says.
It’s an out of this world career in a no-longer-new frontier. Carey says, “It’s a global enterprise and we’re just so proud to be part of it.”
Also on the agenda for the Space Summit is a discussion about space defense, and the new US Space Force. A northern Michigan company is going to be involved in the mission. It’s called KMI, an orbital debris research and solutions company. In layman’s terms, much of what they do is retrieving space junk like old satellites and debris from rockets. KMI has a research contract with the US Space Force and works from their headquarters in Marquette.
“NASS is such a great event for us because we’re able to connect with colleagues in person. Being in the U.P. it’s a little hard to always meet your neighbors when there’s a couple acres in between sometimes. So having the ability to bring the state together, but also across the country and the world. It really does bring North America together,” says KMI Co-Founder and Director of Operations Troy Morris. “We’re able to talk space, we’re able to meet, greet, make new ideas, new partnerships, as well as strengthen the ones we already have. So if there’s an angle of aerospace that you have, NASS is the place to be every year.”
KMI says the amount of space debris is constantly growing, and threatens the safety of critical in-space infrastructure that the world depends on.
From their website: Orbital debris is growing exponentially, threatening critical in-space infrastructure the world depends on. Debris can be basketball-sized objects capable of destroying a single satellite or massive rocket bodies that could set off cascading collisions of untrackable, lethal shards of debris.