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UKSEDS National Student Space Conference 2021

Date: 6-7 March 2021

Location: US,

The 33rd annual UKSEDS National Student Space Conference, to be held online on the 6th and 7th of March 2021, will feature talks from Kathyrn Lueders - NASA’s Human Spaceflight chief, Dr Timiebi Aganaba - international expert on space law, and Dr Yuichi Tsuda - the project manager for JAXA’s record breaking Hayabusa2 mission.


The National Student Space Conference is the premier event for students interested in space, bringing together students, academics, and professionals from across the country to discuss a variety of space activities in the UK and beyond. There will be talks from many leading space industry figures, a virtual careers fair, and online networking opportunities for all in attendance. 


As one of three keynote speakers over the weekend, Kathryn Lueders, Associate Administrator of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, will give a live talk and Q&A session on human space exploration at 15:15 GMT on 6th March to inspire the next generation of leaders within the space industry.


The conference is run and organised by UKSEDS, the UK's student space society, which unites space-enthusiasts at universities across the country. Since the first conference in 1989, over 15 different UKSEDS branches have acted as hosts, however due to the ongoing pandemic, this year the conference will be held online for the first time. Integral to the event is its inclusive nature, with a live speech-to-text interpreter for the entire conference, no ticket cost, and several inclusivity features built into the in-house conference platform. 


With a focus also on providing a platform to a wide diversity of speakers, the conference will include presentations and discussions on a range of topics, highly relevant to current activities and ambitions within the UK space sector. These include the development of UK spaceports, the growing issue of space debris, and entrepreneurship, with insights from industry leaders including: Catherine Mealing-Jones, Director of Growth at the UK Space Agency; Liz Seward, Senior Space Strategist at Airbus; Lucy Kennedy, CEO of Earth Observation startup Spottitt; and Harriet Brettle, Head of Business Analysis at Astroscale, a leading organisation working on space debris removal.


The second keynote will be given by Timiebi Aganaba, Centre for International Governance Innovation fellow and assistant professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society at Arizona State University. Timiebi will discuss the topic of Space 4.0 - the current era of space development, in which the sector is no longer solely the realm of governmental organisations, but is being driven more by private companies, academia, industry, and citizens, through digitalisation and global interaction. 


Sunday’s keynote speaker will be Dr Yuichi Tsuda, Project Manager at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) for the Hayabusa2 mission, the mission that in December 2020 returned to Earth the first subsurface asteroid sample ever collected. 


Libby Jackson, Human Exploration Programme Manager at the UK Space Agency, and who will be chairing a panel discussing the future of the UK space sector, said: 


"I’m delighted to be returning to the UKSEDS Student conference once more as I know first-hand just how valuable the conference is to the space sector, at all levels. I attended my first UKSEDS Student Conference in the early 2000s, when I was full of aspiration to work in the space sector. The conference opened my eyes to the breadth of options available and allowed me to make valuable industry connections. If you want to pursue a career in space, or find out more about the industry, the value you will get from attending the conference is immeasurable. I’m very pleased to be able to return and repay the debt owed to those who opened my eyes to those opportunities all those years ago."


For the first time, the conference programme will feature a debate, with teams of professionals from across the sector debating whether the humanitarian and environmental benefits of large constellations of satellites in low Earth orbit outweigh the negative impacts on the space environment. Following this, and all other sessions, UKSEDS members will be able to interact with speakers on a dedicated Discord server, ensuring the opportunities present at an in-person conference are not lost.


There will also be a virtual careers fair attended by some of the top space related companies and organisations in the country, including Aerospace Cornwall, the UK Quantum Technology Hub Sensors and Timing, Lockheed Martin, Printech Circuit Laboratories, Raytheon, Airbus, Evona, HE Space, AstroAgency, the Royal Aeronautical Society, First Steps Legal, the Institute of Physics, CGI, Space Forge, KISPE, Cranfield University, the International Space University, Bright Ascension, Preceptech, the Royal Astronomical Society, the Institute of Engineering and Technology, and Skyrora.


Jacob Smith, Chair of UKSEDS and the conference’s lead organiser, said: I’m really excited for the opportunities that the first online edition of the National Student Space Conference will bring. We have a stellar programme featuring several current topics within the sector and our most diverse line-up of speakers to date. A lot of students have had a very challenging year, and I hope the conference will inspire them and help them find their place within the space sector.”


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Notes for Editors

UK Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (UKSEDS) is the UK’s national student space society. For over 30 years we have been supporting students and young professionals across the country by running events, providing resources, and teaching them new skills. Its alumni work throughout the global space sector in government, industry, and academia.

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