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Space Symposium draws big crowds, huge deals

May 18, 2014 Updated: May 18, 2014 at 3:07 pm
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Paris has the must-see air show. Detroit has an auto show that draws four-wheel enthusiasts from around the planet.

But if you want faster and higher, you have to come to Colorado Springs. In its 30th year, the Space Symposium is the biggest trade show of its kind.

Hundreds of vendors, from tiny local firms to behemoths like such as Boeing will be on hand courting billion-dollar deals. Unsteady economic recovery and shrinking federal budgets aren’t putting a damper on the show, which takes over The Broadmoor starting Monday.

"It's bigger than ever," said Kevin Cook, vice president of marketing for the Space Foundation, which runs the symposium.

The symposium was launched in Colorado Springs shortly after the military began organizing its space efforts. Air Force Space Command was founded in 1982 at Peterson Air Force Base and the symposium came along in 1984.

What began as a symposium focused on the military has ballooned with the growth in civilian space endeavors. With satellite entertainment, in-car navigation and other civilian applications, space has become a consumer product.

The show, though, will retain its military flavor. Colorado Springs is home to the military's space efforts, including control rooms for such things as missile warning satellites and the Global Positioning System.

Top speakers at the four-day event include Air Force Space Command boss Gen. William Shelton and retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James Clapper, an Obama administration intelligence boss.

Discussions this year include a session on international cooperation for collective security in space and the search for life beyond the solar system. A technical track is designed to boost professional knowledge.

How technical do these talks get? One classified session gets far enough into the details that a security clearance is required and it's being held at a secure location rather than at The Broadmoor.

The opportunity to rake in huge contracts, though, draws the aerospace industry crowds.

Frank Backes, CEO of Colorado Springs satellite software maker Braxton Technologies, says he'll race from meeting to meeting over the four days of the symposium.

While he lives in Colorado Springs, Backes stays at The Broadmoor during the symposium to save commute time on his densely packed schedule.

"We do more meetings in four days than we do in months," he said.

A key to the symposium is the ability for small firms like Braxton to meet and cut deals with their larger brethren.

"That's why having this in our community is so crucial," Backes said.

The symposium draws participants from around the globe. This year, top leaders from European and Asian space agencies will be in the crowd.

On Monday, the symposium will focus on cyberspace, with experts from around the world addressing security and innovation.

The Space Foundation added cyberspace a few years ago because it's a natural fit, Cook said.

While its on-ramps and off-ramps are on Earth, the information superhighway runs through space, where satellites carry huge amounts of data.

aris has the must-see air show. Detroit has an auto show that draws four-wheel enthusiasts from around the planet.

But if you want faster and higher, you have to come to Colorado Springs. In its 30th year, the Space Symposium is the biggest trade show of its kind.

Hundreds of vendors, from tiny local firms to behemoths such as Boeing, will be on hand courting billion-dollar deals. Unsteady economic recovery and shrinking federal budgets aren't putting a damper on the show, which takes over The Broadmoor starting Monday.

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