SATELLITE 2020: Conference Program Preview

SATELLITE 2020 will be the 39th annual gathering of the world’s largest and most influential leaders in commercial space. The week-long conference and exhibition is designed to be a platform to share ideas, to educate the market on new technologies, to address the industry’s most critical challenges, and to reconnect the satellite community with its commercial, enterprise, and government customers.

SATELLITE 2020 will be the 39th annual gathering of the world’s largest and most influential leaders in commercial space. The week-long conference and exhibition is designed to be a platform to share ideas, to educate the market on new technologies, to address the industry’s most critical challenges, and to reconnect the satellite community with its commercial, enterprise, and government customers.

SATELLITE 2020 kicks off on Monday, March 9, 2020 at the Washington D.C. Convention Center. While this year’s gathering includes an exciting and diverse line-up of activities including the Startup Space Entrepreneur pitch contest, the SGx young professionals keynote series, and new add-ons such as the GPSIA Precision Agriculture workshop and the GVF Security and Interference Forum, this preview will highlight the sessions we have planned for the core conference program.

Elon Musk returns to SATELLITE

At the top of the bill, SATELLITE 2020 welcomes SpaceX Founder and Chief Engineer Elon Musk as this year’s opening day keynote speaker. The enigmatic entrepreneur’s last appearance at SATELLITE was in 2009, just as SpaceX was picking up serious speed as the most disruptive force in the commercial space industry. Musk and SpaceX had just received the multibillion-dollar NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contract, which propelled the California-based company to the vanguard of launch services and inspired confidence as a viable option for global satellite operators.

Via Satellite interviewed Musk later that same year. During that interview, he explained that the vision for SpaceX has always focused on human spaceflight. Commercial satellite contracts would pay the bills and serve as valuable opportunities to revolutionize the art of launching rockets. Musk hired President and COO Gwynne Shotwell to run SpaceX’s commercial business, while becoming more involved in the company’s design and engineering process.

Over time, SpaceX would develop and roll out the Falcon Heavy (lovingly referred to as the “Big F---ing Rocket”) and become the first among its peers to pull off and master the reusable rocket – an idea that seemed downright blasphemous only a decade ago. Musk’s engineering leadership continues to surprise the industry. In recent years, the company has also positioned itself as a constellation operator. The SpaceX Starlink constellation is almost mythical in scale. It is currently composed of 180 satellites, but SpaceX intends to grow it into a massive, 40,000 spacecraft-strong beast designed to provide global internet services. Starlink satellites allegedly shine so bright they blind astronomers, who wonder if they’ll ever see another twinkling star in the night sky.

People are drawn to the mystery of SpaceX, and Musk himself has become a cultural icon of innovation. SATELLITE 2020’s hour-long fireside chat with Musk will be an invaluable opportunity to shed some light on the mystery of Starlink, the destiny of his massive stainless steel Starship rocket, and the future of human spaceflight.

Meet the Leaders of the Restructured U.S. Space Command

Building modern military satellite networks requires integrating an array of technologies both in space and on the ground, and operating on both exclusive and shared platforms. Military officials from around the world will gather at SATELLITE 2020 to discuss how their organizations have had to adapt their approaches to acquiring and operating new technologies. Considering all of the recent changes to U.S. space policy and the structure of Space Command, the Pentagon will certainly take center stage.

The very first Government & Military Forum session at SATELLITE 2020, “Modernizing Military Space: How Global Defense Organizations are Preparing for the Future,” (Monday, at 9:30 a.m.) addresses the impact of these changes to the U.S. government and military satcom markets. Doug Schroeder, oversight executive at the Office of the United States Under Secretary of Defense, will lead a conversation about the shift in procurement of SATCOM to Space Command, the creation of the Space Development Agency, a migration of commercial remote sensing acquisitions to the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), and how the U.S. government has shown a growing openness to implementing non-traditional acquisition models.

This conversation is immediately followed by a national security satellite technologies forum, led by Dr. Mir H. Sadat, director for Critical Enablers at the White House’s National Space Council. Dr. Sadat and company will explore how the commercial space sector can support a robust national security and deterrence strategy.

The SATELLITE 2020 Government & Military Forum Keynote Speaker is Lt. Gen. David D. Thompson, Vice Commander of the Air Force Space Command in Washington, D.C. His appearance at the event couldn’t be more prudent. Lt. Gen. Thompson is responsible to the commander of Air Force Space Command in carrying out Air Force space missions and integrating space policy, guidance, coordination and synchronization of space-related activities, and issue resolution for Air Force Space Command and the Department of the Air Force. He comes to SATELLITE 2020 to outline new opportunities for the commercial satellite and space industries to help build a new milsatcom network and secure a future in space for the United States and its global allies.

A Deep Dive into Ground Systems Tech

SATELLITE 2020 features an expanded and revamped Tech & Engineering Forum, driven by attendee feedback for more in-depth technical content. The now four-day event kicks off on Monday morning with an in-depth look at how antenna and terminal technology are evolving in form and functionality. Executives from Kymeta, C-Com, Ball Aerospace, and ThinKom will look at how these systems are changing physically to meet the requirement of their users' environment. For functionality, the group will discuss how systems are becoming more "satellite-agnostic," enabling users to switch between satellite operators in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO), Medium-Earth Orbit (MEO) and Geostationary Orbit (GEO).

The Tech & Engineering forum also gives attendees a chance to learn about the results of critical tech case studies. Recently, companies like Google (Loon), Amazon, and SES have been developing interoperable, hybrid infrastructure that enable hybrid services to reach full potential. They are building infrastructure to support aerospace networks with the ability to orchestrate, control, optimize, and move data through an internet of flying and/or moving things, including LEO, MEO, and GEO satellite constellations. The leading engineers from these companies will host a session, “Enabling Interoperable, Hybrid Infrastructure,” on Monday afternoon, which unveils new breakthroughs in interoperable, high-throughput, low-latency hybrid networks.

In addition to the 13 Tech & Engineering Forum sessions, which cover everything from robotics and AI to the design of next-generation, Very High Throughput (VHTS) satellite services, the track also includes appearances by Microsoft Azure CTO William Chappell, who will outline the importance of the Cloud to the future of satellite operators, and representatives from Amazon’s Kuiper broadband constellation.

Tech & Engineering track attendees with an All-Access Pass should also check out the “Ground Systems CEOs” Executive Roundtable on Thursday at 9 a.m. Executive leaders at the world's largest satellite ground segment suppliers, including Isotropic, Phasor, Gilat, ST Engineering, and Intellian, predict the future evolutionary path of physical vs. software-defined infrastructure. How will the form and function of terminals, antennas, and amplifiers change and adapt to customers' needs? And, is there enough business in the ground segment market to welcome new players and startups?

Getting Real on Small Satellites and Constellations

Small satellite specialists and constellation operators have ambitious plans. Those offering communications services hope their systems emerge as the leading global broadband connectivity solution. Those offering imagery and sensing services hope that they can connect with a customer base large enough to sustain their business strategies. SATELLITE 2020 presents a brand new, small satellite-centric conference track, the SmallSatcom Forum, running Monday through Wednesday.

The SmallSatcom Forum kicks off with a roadmap of the constellations in play with executives from the largest players in the market: Matt Desch, CEO of Iridium Communications; Jonathan Hofeller, vice president of Starlink, SpaceX; Erwin Hudson, vice president of Telesat LEO; and Adrián Steckel, CEO of OneWeb. These four executives will present a realistic view of what’s to come, and outline the differences and similarities between existing systems.

This session is immediately followed by another executive panel that focuses on the imagery and sensing side of the market. Payam Banazadeh, CEO and founder of Capella Space, Loft Orbital CEO Antoine de Chassy, Spire CEO Peter Platzer, and Planet Co-Founder Robbie Schingler will address the potential and transformational impact that small satellite EO, GNSS, and sensing data systems will have on our societies.

The SmallSatcom Forum isn’t all about non-geostationary (NGSO) systems. Small satellites have a future in GEO, as well. The “Smallsats in GEO” session, on Tuesday morning, will include small satellite operators and launchers who are working with constellation systems that operate (literally and figuratively) at a high level, providing uniquely tailored services function in the spaces above their LEO and MEO cousins.

The forum will also explore the technology that’s happening at the extreme opposite end of the supply chain – the ground systems. The biggest challenge for small satellite systems is making sure the ground systems keep pace with the innovation in space. Leadership from Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT), Atlas Space, Hughes, and Kratos will gather for the session, “What About the Hardware? Adaptive, Modular Small Satellite Ground Systems,” a look at the rapid evolution of adaptive small satellite antennas, terminals, and other ground systems, scheduled for Monday at 1:30 p.m.

A small satellite program would not be complete without addressing the elephants in the room – space debris, Space Situational Awareness (SSA), and regulatory policy. While global regulatory agencies say that their new initiatives are making it easier and cheaper to license and operate small satellites, some agencies have also been criticized for endorsing regulatory regimes that hinder the market and stifle the smallsat entrepreneurial spirit. Who, if anyone, is writing the "fair and appropriate" smallsat regulatory rulebook?

Nikolai Khlystov, lead for the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Space Technologies, along with SES CTO Ruy Pinto, Betty Bonnardel-Azzarelli, chair of the U.K. chapter of the Society of Satellite Professionals International and Benjamin Reed of NASA Satellite Servicing Projects Division (SSPD) will be among more than a dozen speakers addressing these topics.

The C-Suite Sessions

SATELLITE is defined by its ability to gather industry leadership on the same stage to address critical challenges and changing market dynamics. The SATELLITE 2020 Tuesday morning opening general session brings back all five of last year’s leading global satellite operators (plus Pradman Kaul of Hughes) in an all-new, interactive format. The six CEOs will share their visions for the future in keynote presentations, participate in fireside chat-style conversations, and answer questions live from the audience and social media.

The Tuesday closing session will feature executive leaders from the world's most influential satellite builders in a debate the future evolutionary path of spacecraft design. The executive leaders from Boeing, Maxar, Thales Alenia Space, Airbus, and Lockheed Martin will address why the space segment of our industry’s supply chain is becoming increasingly virtualized, and how these changes will impact business in orbit and down to the consumer.

For those of you who love to talk about rockets, SATELLITE 2020 offers not one, but two Launch Executives panels, featuring CEOs and executive leaders from the world's most influential launch services. Speakers from SpaceX, ULA, Arianespace, Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman, RocketLab, MHI, and ISRO will reveal new rockets, payloads, facilities, and launch targets in this two-part session.

SATELLITE 2020 also marks the return of the CTO Executive Roundtable. This year, CTOs from Hispasat, Viasat, IBM, SES, and Microsoft will focus on the topic of enterprise networking from satellites. One could argue that the evolving needs of today's enterprise market has, by itself, driven the IoT revolution. Our CTO panel will share insights on how they're planning their own digital transformation build-out to support more cloud-based applications, and how satellite innovation is helping to power the new, digital customer experience in retail, energy, healthcare, and other enterprise verticals.

Finally, we’ve added an executive roundtable for future-facing visionaries as our SATELLITE 2020 closing session. Speakers from OneWeb, Dish, Arabsat, and Virgin Orbit will share their perspectives on a variety of topics, including: how IoT is creating universal enterprise customers; how expanded access has created a more "public" space for business; how software is taking over space technology; 5G; global constellations; space exploration and more. VS

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