TC Disrupt 2023: Space Stage Sessions

The Aerospace Corporation proudly partnered with TechCrunch to host the Space Stage at TechCrunch Disrupt 2023, which was held on Sept. 19-21 in San Francisco, CA.
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At TechCrunch Disrupt 2023, Aerospace proudly partnered with TechCrunch to convene discussions with government and industry leaders to explore the exciting opportunities and host of challenges in this dynamic era of space. The Space Stage, powered by Aerospace, explored a wide range of topics, including the role of American public- and private-sector partnerships; perspective from venture capital on working with the U.S. Department of Defense; leveraging exciting new technologies like AI and quantum, and more. 

The Most Exciting Time in Space: How We Got Here and What Comes Next 

This unprecedented time in space offers untold possibilities to transform humankind’s relationship with the cosmos and benefit the prosperity and security of all those here on Earth. Join leading experts as they explore what’s new and what’s next in space, from the mega-trends and cutting-edge technologies that will define the next decade to the critical role commercial companies will play in making the most of this exciting time. 

Moderator: Susan Karlin, Space Science Journalist 


  • Steve Isakowitz, President and CEO, The Aerospace Corporation 
  • Brian Weeden, Director of Program Planning, Secure World Foundation 
  • Peter Wegner, Chief Strategy Officer, Black Sky

Space Domain Awareness Challenge Pitch Off 

Aerospace and TechCrunch also joined forces to host a pitch competition to find the strongest startups using AI/Machine Learning to work with satellite data streams. Space Domain Awareness arises from the output of all the sensor data.

Top 5 Finalists: 

  • Spaceflux 
  • Vyoma (via Zoom) 
  • SaraniaSat 
  • O Analytics 
  • Cognitive Space

Watch the the Space Domain Awareness Challenge winner announcement here.


  • Ian McCubbin, Startup and VC Program Manager, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
  • Tess Hatch, Partner, Bessemer Venture Partners
  • Cullen M. Greenfield, Program Manager, CDR, USN, Space Portfolio, Defense Innovation Unit (DIU)

The Future of Sending Human Beings into Space 

With commercial organizations playing a more prominent role in sending humans into space, governments, regulators, and even companies themselves are not quite sure what these herald for the new space age. This panel will help us understand the future of sending humans into space and the respective roles of governments and companies. 

Moderator: Aaron Stein, Chief Content Officer, Metamorphic Media 


  • Jared Isaacman, Astronaut and Commander, Inspiration4 & Polaris Program 
  • Laura Crabtree, Co-founder & CEO, Epsilon3 
  • David Korsmeyer, Ames Acting Deputy Center Director, NASA

Commercial Space Power and the Next Space Age 

In the United States, private industry plays perhaps the most important role in keeping America’s space aspirations aloft. This has created both opportunities and challenges as the U.S. government and the private sector try to chart a path forward together into the heavens. This panel unpacks the technologies the American public and private sectors are sending into space and the incentives that bring them together and drive them apart. 

Moderator: Ryan Evans, CEO, Bedrock Learning 


  • General James H. Dickinson, United States Space Command 
  • Dr. John Plumb, Assistant Secretary Defense, Space Policy, Department of Defense 
  • Mandy Vaughn, CEO & Founder, GXO, Inc.

Quantum and a New Age of Espionage 

From busting open sensitive encryption to creating new unbreakable codes, quantum technologies have the potential to transform the world of espionage and cryptography. A government official and physicist, former CIA officer now in industry, Stanford professor, and and CTO of the only space FFRDC join forces to explain why, and how some of these technologies are related to things in orbit. 

Moderator: Dr. Debra Emmons, Vice President & Chief Technology Officer, The Aerospace Corporation 


  • Herbert Lin, Senior Research Scholar, Hank Holland Fellow, Stanford University 
  • Laura Thomas, Chief of Staff & Strategic Initiatives, Infleqtion 
  • Andrew Wilson, Quantum Physics Division Chief, National Institute of Standards & Technology

AI and Warfare 

The lightning-fast adoption of ChatGPT supercharged conversations about how AI promises to transform warfare. But will it? Is the technology ready or overhyped? Are military institutions ready? Are the right companies ready to work with the military? This panel – representing industry, the academy, and the Defense Department – will unpack these questions and more. 

Moderator: Rajeev Chand, Partner & Head of Research, Wing Venture Capital 


  • Tara Murphy Dougherty, CEO, Govini 
  • Torsten Reil, Co-founder & Co-CEO, Helsing 
  • Dr. Craig Martell, Chief Scientist and AI lead, DoD

Why is Venture Capital So Uneasy with the World’s Largest Customer? 

The U.S. Defense Department is the world’s biggest customer and is eager to work with innovative companies backed by venture capital. Unfortunately, most of the largest venture capital firms in the United States are gun shy when it comes to backing companies looking to tackle federal markets. Why is this? Are they being foolish and leaving money on the table? Or do they understand something important? 

Moderator: Ryan Evans, CEO, Bedrock Learning 


  • Morgan Beller, General Partner, NFX 
  • Dan Gwak, Managing Partner, Point72 Private Investments
  • David Tremper, Deputy Assistant Secretary Defense, Acquisition Integration & Interoperability, Office of the Secretary of Defense
  • Tess Hatch, Partner, Bessemer Venture Partners

Aerospace Breakout Sessions 

Aerospace Breakout Session 1: The Hardest Problems in Space 

Space is big, and working in space is difficult. From the daunting task of achieving interstellar travel, to the pressing concerns about space debris and its potential threat to spacecraft and satellites in orbit, we will delve into the complexities and uncertainties that define the vast expanse beyond our planet. Together let’s explore the immense challenges that await humanity as we venture into the cosmos, contemplate the critical issues that we face today, and discuss the cutting-edge research and visionary ideas that pave the way for solving the hardest problems in space.

Moderator: Dr. Brian Cameron, Deputy CTO and General Manager, The Aerospace Corporation 


  • Tanya Pemberton, Senior Vice President of National Systems Group, The Aerospace Corporation 
  • Col. Wallace “Rhet” Turnbull, III, Director, Cross Mission Ground & Communication Enterprise, Space and Missile Systems Center 
  • Al Tadros, Chief Technology Officer, Redwire

Aerospace Breakout Session 2: So You Want to Work in Space? 

We have an opportunity to shape humankind’s presence in space in ways that stand to forever benefit the quality of life and security of every human on Earth. To fully realize that exciting future, we must have a bold, vibrant workforce – one that leverages diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences to drive innovation and tackle the hard problems the space industry faces. Join us for a conversation with some of the companies building the next generation's space industry workforce. 

Moderator: Rachel Morford, Principal Director, Requirements Integration & Strategy, The Aerospace Corporation 

• Will Pomerantz, Executive Consultant, Space Workforce 2030
• Aine Nakai, ATLAS Deputy Director, Space System Command
• Tess Hatch, Partner, Bessemer Venture Partners