February 23, 2023, Marshall Lee, Vice Chair, AIAA RMS
Dr. Dexter Johnson of NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC) from Glenn Research Center reached out in late November last year to see if AIAA RMS would be interested in collaborating on a new networking event to help increase diversity and inclusion (D&I) within the Colorado Aerospace Community. As a result, we held the 1st Annual Space Operations Forum (SOF-2023) on February 16-17 at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, CO.
SOF-2023 was a unique and successful opportunity for AIAA Rocky Mountain Section to work directly on a D&I event with the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) – Space City Professionals (SCP) chapter in Houston, TX. Presentations were given from NASA officials discussing the topic of how to transition from the International Space Station (ISS) to Commercial Low Earth Orbit Destinations (CLD) as ISS will be decommissioned in 2030.
“It changed participants lives and how they see themselves,” said Paul Deaderick, Chair, Diversity & Inclusion Committee, AIAA RMS. He said, “SOF -2023 demonstrated that AIAA and NSBE can quickly mobilize to provide an opportunity for a diverse group of professionals to discuss complex challenges and generate strategic solutions for the advancement of our nations capabilities in space.”
The forum was designed as a networking, working group event which would produce a set of ideas from voices of our underrepresented professionals and students. Five (5) working groups, including one with our online, virtual participants, were asked two primary questions that NASA wanted to know.
“Our goal and mission as a program and agency are to enable commercial markets as documented in the US Space Policy and NASA Strategic Goals - “Encourage the growth of United States commercial human space exploration, including […] the continued commercialization of operations in and beyond low Earth orbit (LEO), and the use of microgravity as a domain for research and development” and “Develop a human spaceflight economy enabled by a commercial market”. As we enable LEO commercialization, these markets become a gateway for access to space for all of humanity.”
1st Question – As we open the spectrum of space (for all humanity) through the efforts of the Commercial LEO Development Program and the Agency – how do we truly ensure that everyone, not just a select few, have access and gets to participate in enabling access to space in LEO. What can NASA do to ensure more effective inclusion of underrepresented communities in our effort to enable commercialization of space so that the vision of “access to space for all humanity” is realized.
2nd Question – What is your recommendation for how NASA and its astronauts operate in a paradigm where we do not own nor are we operating the orbital platforms in LEO (that we are sending our astronauts to) but are just buying a service as one of many customers? What are some of the things we should consider in this future state?
Facilitation of the working groups’ efforts was assisted by Casey Medina, President & Founder, StudioSE, Ltd. and the online group was facilitated by Janelle Holt, Organization Development Team Lead, Human Resources, Employee and Career Services, NASA JSC, and Evett Turner, Vendor Management, NASA JSC.
Speakers included Vanessa Wyche, Director, NASA Johnson Spaceflight Center (JSC), Jennifer Scott-Williams, Branch Manager, ISS Research Integration Office, NASA JSC, Darryl Gaines, Associate Program Manager, Commercial LEO Development Program, NASA JSC, Syreeta Watkins, Chair, NSBE SCP, Lakita Lowe, Project Integrator, Commercial LEO Development Program, Dr. Dexter Johnson (NAFP Fellow II, AIAA Associate Fellow), NASA Technical Fellow – Loads & Dynamics, NASA Glenn Research Center, Dr. Azita Valinia, Chief Scientist, NASA Engineering and Safety Center, Shane Deichman, Vice Chair, Colorado Space Business Roundtable (CSBR), Jahi Simbai, Sr Manager, Workforce Development, NREL, Marshall Lee, Vice Chair, AIAA Rocky Mountain Section, Elsa Yehdego, Director of Research, GlobalMindED, Jon Goff, StarMax Productization Lead, Gravitics, and Dwayne Williams, Programs Chair, NSBE SCP.
Ball Aerospace provided a tour of their Boulder, CO facility where Dr. Jeanette Domber (AIAA Fellow) Program Manager, Civil Space & Astrophysics Opportunity Lead, Ball Aerospace gave a company overview. Heather Doty, Project Engineer, Operations, Ball Aerospace and Past President of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) lead SOF-2023 participants on the tour. Special thanks for Ball’s support of SOF-2023 goes to Suzanne Delchamps, Talent Acquistion Operations Manager, Ball Aerospace!
Gravitics provided a virtual reality (VR) experience for exploring their interior space of their StarMax spacecraft.
In the end, SOF-2023 fostered collaborative partnerships that will enable all parties to solve relevant business problems within the space industry, achieve mutual growth, and expand networks.
Look for the 2nd Annual Space Operations Forum in 2024 in Houston, TX.