The first annual Space Commerce Conference and Exposition, or SpaceCom, gets underway at the George R. Brown Convention Center next Tuesday. Steven Gonzalez is deputy at the Strategic Partnership Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Michael Heckman is vice president of partnerships and event development for Houston First Corporation. The two join Andrew Schneider on this week’s installment of the “Bauer Business Focus.”
Energy is regarded as the main driver of the Houston economy, but we did not get the nickname “Space City” for nothing. Is Houston still “Space City” four years after the end of the space shuttle program?
Gonzalez: “Absolutely…We’ve got this new era of commercial space. NASA’s working a lot with these companies…we’ve got the next generation of technology, too, to get us to Mars that we’re working on…and then, of course, in June…Houston was named as the tenth city to have a spaceport.”
Why is Houston hosting the first SpaceCom now, given the length of time the city has been involved in this field?
Heckman: “With the commercialization of space currently underway, and us right on the front of that type of an industry, the timing for Houston is perfect to lead in this…type of a conference. There’s nothing like it in the world. What we’ve developed, we believe, is the largest commercial space conference of its type.”
Who will be participating?
Gonzalez: “[Major] General [Charles F.] Bolden, the NASA Administrator, will kick off the conference. We have the chief technology officer from Royal Dutch Shell [Yuri Sebregts], who’ll be flying in from Europe for the last day of the conference. We have the CEO from Virgin Galactic, George Whitesides, that will be there. And we’ve got a gentleman from Catapult [Stuart Martin, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director, Satellite Applications Catapult] an organization in the UK that will be the keynote [speaker] talking about how space information is helping out the maritime trade.”
Heckman: “One of the things that we decided to do as well is to create the first spaceport summit, so all of the commercially licensed spaceports in the United States will be represented at this.”