Georgia Tech Stars in Space Innovation Symposium

Faculty, staff, alumni, students are organizers, featured speakers

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was updated on Oct. 18, 2017, to acknowledge the participation of Georgia Tech alumna Janine Captain, Ph.D. in chemisry, 2005. 

NASA Astronaut R. Shane Kimbrough is the star attraction of the First Annual Symposium on Space Innovation. The Georgia Tech alumnus – M.S. Operations Research 1998 – embodies Tech’s strong reputation in space science and technology research and development.

The symposium, on Oct. 19, 2017, is the first annual meeting on space innovations. That it is being held in Georgia attests to the aerospace industry’s importance in the state, which hosts more than 500 companies involved in various aspects of vehicle and systems design. Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Honeywell are just a few of the industry giants operating in Georgia.

Notably, the symposium recognizes that space innovations extend beyond the engineering, technology, and business of satellites and space launches. Joining Kimbrough at the conference are Georgia Tech faculty and students not only from aerospace engineering, but also from astrobiology and planetary sciences. Some helped organize the meeting; others will give presentations.

“The symposium highlights the tremendous space-related research, development, and business activities in the southeastern U.S., especially in Georgia,” says W. Jud Ready, the symposium’s lead organizer. Ready is deputy director of Georgia Tech’s Institute for Materials and a principal research engineer at Georgia Tech Research Institute. As conference chair, he will deliver opening and closing remarks.

“Georgia Tech plays a vital role in the space ecosystem,” Ready says. “The symposium is a way to share knowledge in a ‘What does Georgia Tech think’ manner. In keeping with Tech’s ‘Creating the Next’ theme, we believe this event will spur next-generation efforts in R&D and commercialization.”

Three others from Georgia Tech join Ready in the organizing committee.

E. Glenn Lightsey is a professor in the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering. “The symposium will enable participants to share recent progress and opportunities in the space industry with professionals and academics who want to network and learn,” he says. Eleven aerospace engineering students, six of whom are Lightsey’s advisees, will be giving talks and presenting posters.

“Georgia Tech is naturally positioned to be an innovation hub for space because of the number of faculty, scientists, engineers, and students who are working on space-related topics,” Lightsey says. With the rest of the organizing committee, Lightsey was one of the planners for the agenda. He recruited speakers and arranged some event logistics.

 “The symposium will allow researchers and students to interact with government officials, business executives, and innovators involved in space flight. It also provides a venue for Georgia Tech Astrobiology to highlight their amazing work,” says Kennda L. Lynch, a postdoctoral research fellow in the School of Biological Sciences, working with the NASA Astrobiology Institute at Georgia Tech.   

“As NASA’s exploration goals focus increasingly on astrobiology, this symposium will communicate the advances in the field from Georgia Tech,” Lynch says. Lynch recruited speakers for the symposium’s Space Science and Deep Space Mission (SSDSM) track. Among them is Martha Grover, a professor in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering who will give a talk on the chemical origins of life.   

“The symposium helps highlight the important role that Georgia Tech has already played in training space scientists and engineers,” says Thomas Orlando, a professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the director of the Center for Space Technology and Research (C-STAR). He helped organize sessions on space science and space exploration.

Research by C-STAR members has enabled understanding of space weathering and the interaction of radiation from solar wind and magnetospheres with planetary surfaces and icy satellites. Recently, NASA chose Georgia Tech for a new solar system project to understand Radiation Effects on Volatiles and Exploration of Asteroid and Lunar Surfaces (REVEALS). The focus is not only on space weathering, Orlando says. “There is a significant component of technology and materials development necessary for successful exploration of near-Earth destinations.” Orland will give a talk about REVEALS in the symposium’s SSDSM track.

Janine E. Captain, a chemist and former Ph.D. student of Orlando's, will present the talk "Resource Prospector Instrumentation for Volatile Analysis." Captain leads NASA's Lunar Advanced Volatile Analysis (LAVA) Subsystem on the Resource Prospector Mission. The mission aims to use instrruments to investigate the distribution of volatile resources such as water in the lunar polar region. 

“Georgia is in an excellent position to became a leader in the commercial space industry,” Lynch says. “This symposium will unite the various space entities in Georgia and establish a platform to communicate recent advances with each other and the rest of the U.S. space industry."

“This is the first summit and we hope it will be a success,” Orlando says. “Linking industry and academic efforts will accelerate innovation and economic development in space-related efforts within Georgia and with other partners, particularly in the Southeast.”

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Click on image(s) to view larger version(s)

  • NASA Astronaut R. Shane Kimbrough

  • W. Jud Ready

  • Glenn Lightsey

  • Kennda Lynch (Photo by NASA Astrobiology Institute)

  • Martha Grover

  • Thomas Orlando

  • Janine Captain (Photo courtesy of Spaceport Magazine)

For More Information Contact

A. Maureen Rouhi, Ph.D.
Director of Communications
College of Sciences