Innovation in Aerospace

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Date(s) - 6/16/200912:00 am


During much of the 20th century, the aerospace industry drove innovation in the U.S. economy.  Thus, it earned the moniker, “the space age.”  By the end of the century, however, developments in information technology, biological sciences, and biotechnology seemed to eclipse aerospace as a major driver of innovation in the United States.  Indeed, the “information revolution” replaced the “space age” as an off-hand reference to the century.  At the same time, mainstream aerospace activity, particularly as it related to government programs intended to serve the national interest, suffered from increased bureaucratization and risk aversion. National centers of technical creativity and innovation shifted from aerospace firms, which were consolidating and downsizing with the end of the Cold War, to places such as Silicon Valley and the Northern Virginia technology corridor.

Yet, with the turn of the millennium, a growing movement of space professionals sought to import the culture and innovativeness of the IT revolution into aerospace.  Capital started to flow from information technology enterprises back into aerospace while individuals who had successful careers in the information revolution sought to join the aerospace community.  During this time, the U.S. government sought to capitalize on these trends by exploring new models of public-private cooperation.


To explore these trends and their implications for U.S. civil space programs, the Marshall Institute held a workshop to explore the means of promoting greater creativity and innovation in the aerospace industry.  In particular, the workshop examined the challenges, lessons, and applicability of the information technology industry’s practices for the aerospace community and the experience that innovative firms have had in working with government agencies.

Panel I: Introducing Silicon Valley to Aerospace

  • Chris Kemp, Chief Information Officer, NASA Ames Research Center
  • Tim Hughes, Vice President, SpaceX Mr. Hughes’ slides are found Hughes 6-16-09.

Panel II: Public-Private Partnerships

  • Doug Comstock, Director, Innovative Partnerships Program, NASA
  • Scott Pace, Professor of Practice in International Affairs & Director, Space Policy Institute, George Washington University.  Dr. Pace’s slides are found Pace 6-16-09.
  • Uyen Dinh, Senior Director, Government Affairs, GeoEye

A summary is available Innovation in Aerospace

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