Space Impulse had the opportunity to talk to Shelli Brunswick, the COO of Space Foundation, on the third day of the 74th International Astronautical Congress. During the interview, she explained the crucial role of education and community-building in growing the space industry. Throughout the discussion, she highlighted the Space Foundation’s commitment to fostering capacity building around the world, emphasizing that this is not solely a U.S. issue but a global one.
“Capacity building for the space industry is not just for today, but for the future,” said Brunswick. “And so getting to hear what other organizations are doing to help do that capacity building is really important.”
For Brunswick and Space Foundation, solutions to current challenges in space come from a collective effort where re partnerships and collaborations – not competition – reign. By joining forces, organisations can better promote capacity building, innovation, and problem-solving within the space industry.
The interview also touched on the crucial role of startups within the space sector. Small but agile and nimble, these businesses can rapidly innovate and develop unique solutions for staples of the space industry. However, these startups are not solely looking skyward; according to Brunswick, many are seeking ways to use space innovation to address key issues here on Earth.
“Entrepreneurs are looking at what are the problems we’re seeing today,” explained Brunswick. “We’re seeing problems with orbital debris, communications, climate change, and agriculture. And so I’m seeing a lot of entrepreneurs who are looking at problem-solving here on planet Earth to solve our biggest challenges.”
What about those just starting out in the field, though? Brunswick holds that there are plenty of resources and opportunities for those wanting to enter the space sector, from joining organizations like the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC), the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), or the The Islamic World Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (ICESCO), to utilizing platforms like LinkedIn to connect with industry professionals and organizations such as Youth Opportunities who talk about scholarships, internships and paid fellowships. She emphasizes the importance of a five step workforce development roadmap: awareness, access, training, connecting and mentoring, in developing a pathway into the space industry.
In addition, Space Foundation is dedicated to providing support and resources for emerging space nations as well, offering leadership training and educational programs for the age groups of kindergarten to 12th grade. Brunswick underlined the importance of tailoring capacity building to meet the needs of these countries, paving the way to stronger and more sustainable growth in their space sectors.
As for achieving significant milestones such as spacecraft development or Moon programs, Brunswick advises forming robust partnerships with nations that have established space programs. NASA, for example, has outreach programs through which emerging nations can partner with the agency along with other companies and organizations. This tactic could not only save money and expedite processes but also streamline the execution of key projects.
Summing up the discussion, Brunswick highlighted that the space industry should be seen as a global project and community, where cooperation and collaboration are essential.
“‘Space for all’ means different things to different countries,” said Brunswick. “Every country needs to look at their strategy, their community, and what helps their citizens the most, and then create a strategy and a policy that helps elevate their citizens.”
While each country may have a different approach to space exploration and innovation, understanding space as a shared endeavor strengthens our collective ability to navigate new frontiers. The ultimate goal of the space industry should be not just to reach for the stars but to elevate humanity as a whole.
Featured image: Shelli Brunswick. Credit: Shelli Brunswick