The symposium resumed in August 2021 after a 2½-year absence triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic with a hybrid online and in-person event that attracted about two-thirds of its usual attendance. This week's event will be the first since 2019 to return to the symposium's typical attendance levels, enough to fill more than 12,000 rooms in 24 hotels, generating an economic impact of $12 million, according to Visit Colorado Springs.
"We will be back bigger and better than ever, big enough where all the major players are coming back," said Tom Zelibor, CEO of the Colorado Springs-based Space Foundation, which hosts the annual symposium. "Our participant numbers will be right back where they were at 14,000, which includes the 10,000 attendees from 40 countries, the employees of The Broadmoor, our volunteers, speakers and support staff."
The symposium's agenda is packed with more than 200 speakers, including Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall; Gen. John "Jay" Raymond, commander of the U.S. Space Force; Gen. James Dickinson, commander of U.S. Space Command; Josef Aschbacher, director general of the European Space Agency; Pam Melroy, deputy administrator of the National Aeronautical and Space Administration; and Chiraq Parikh, executive secretary of the National Space Council.
No participants are expected from either Russia or China, and attendees from Ukraine seem unlikely.
One big name that hasn't yet been confirmed is British billionaire Richard Branson, founder of The Virgin Group, who will receive his space "wings" for making a short flight to the edge of space last year. Also during the symposium, the foundation will present five annual awards for lifetime achievement, public affairs, space exploration, space achievement and education, and will honor three technology advancements in its Space Technology Hall of Fame.
Just as important are the 275 exhibits spread over two of The Broadmoor's largest exhibit halls where aerospace companies display their latest technology and meet potential customers to set the stage for or seal multimillion-dollar deals. The deal-making continues at dozens of receptions, parties and other events during the symposium spread throughout the resort's 2,500-acre campus.
The foundation has added a new wrinkle to this year's symposium — three new half-day "tracks" or parts of the program on space finance, space exploration and artificial intelligence that will be offered at the nearby Cheyenne Mountain Resort.
All Space Symposium programs had been offered at The Broadmoor, but Zelibor said the event had "maxed out" the resort's capacity. The Broadmoor added the 171,000-square-foot Bartolin Hall last year to accommodate the growth in exhibits at the symposium.
"The symposium is back up to its normal size, and a group using that much space touches almost every business in Colorado Springs," Visit Colorado Springs CEO Doug Price said. "Getting a hotel room this week will be nearly impossible."
This year's symposium isn't just maxing out meeting rooms — the foundation filled all 16 hotels in which it had rooms set aside by mid-March and had to add six more, the most ever for the event. Price said most of the hotel rooms in the Colorado Springs area have been reserved by symposium participants, leaving few available for any last-minute arrivals.
"Even though we did this in August, now eight months later people are excited to get back (to the symposium) in person. This is a big deal for us (the foundation) and the space community," Zelibor said. "The space ecosystem is growing so rapidly — forecast to more than double from $447 billion last year to $1 trillion by the end of the decade — that there is a lot of desire to see what is going on and driving the economics of it."
The foundation also is recruiting a record number of volunteers — up to 350 — for the symposium to help with guest support and check in, speaker and VIP support and security, said Jennifer Walters, the nonprofit's senior manager of operational integration. About half of the volunteers return each year to help with the annual event, including active-duty and retired military personnel.
The foundation also is expanding the symposium to its Discovery Center museum at 4425 Arrowswest Drive, where it will host a free Family Symposium 2-7 p.m. Wednesday with 10 other organizations to offer participants opportunities to learn about science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics for space exploration.
While the event is returning to full in-person participation, the foundation will still offer all sessions of the symposium, video access to all exhibits and a virtual chat room for networking on its Symposium 365 online platform. The online platform was launched by the foundation in late 2020 after the 2020 symposium was postponed a second time as a way for the foundation to offer its program year-round.
The foundation relies on the symposium for about two-thirds of its revenue, so having the event twice in one year has helped to trigger a 50% increase in revenue for the nonprofit.
As a result, the staff at the foundation has grown from fewer than 60 to 90, the most in its nearly 40-year history, for its educational programs, public affairs efforts, fundraising and other operations. The nonprofit had to cut its staff by nearly 20 last year following a loss of nearly $6 million in 2020 from the symposium cancellation .
Among the foundation's efforts to become less dependent on the symposium is the Space Commerce Institute, started in February to provide classes, consulting and other help to space entrepreneurs. The foundation also operates a program that helps space startup companies develop a business plan, secure financing, find key staff, and offer other assistance .
The staff growth has resulted in the foundation expanding its offices into new adjacent space donated last year to the nonprofit by the El Pomar Foundation. The donation included forgiving a $4.1 million loan and converting a seven-year lease-purchase agreement into a gift.
The foundation also is in the early stages of a $50 million fundraising campaign expected to last up to five years that will finance renovation and building out a major expansion of the Discovery Center.
Quelle: The Gazette