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Huntsville brings together 6,500 military and industry innovators

The Space & Missile Defense Symposium launched its 26th year of hosting military and industry professionals in Huntsville, bringing together a commitment to keeping Americans safe and the cutting-edge technology that makes it possible. 

Briefings from senior Department of Defense officials are held in the same building as a massive showcase floor where more than 250 organizations showcase their latest work to the public. 

“Throughout the next several days, we’re looking forward to sharing how we’re working day in and day out to ensure 24/7/365 protection of the U.S. and our allies and partners around the world,” Lt. Gen. Daniel Karbler of Army Space and Missile Defense Command told the crowd. 

When it comes to the connection between both domains – space and missile defense – a direct exchange is crystal clear, Karbler said. 

“Space is a key domain for warfare in the 21st century and beyond,” he said. “Space capabilities provide neighbors with options to defeat, destroy, disrupt, deny, or manipulate enemy networks information and decision making.”

On the other side of the Von Braun Center, companies are showing off their latest technologies with promise to accomplish that mission – and look really cool in the process. 

While making the rounds, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said, “We’ve got 6,500 people scheduled to be in the city of Huntsville and they’re in our sweet spot. Which is technology, aerospace, and missile defense. 

“Those 6,500 people – half of them already live here, the other half, maybe they should have a presence here. So we’re talking to them about how to come and be part of our community.” 

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Leidos is highlighting a host of capabilities this year at SMD, including hypersonic systems, force protection, national security space, and digital infrastructure. The company’s hypersonics programs boast three services spanning support of the US Army, Navy, and Air Force.

Parsons Corp. was among exhibitors highlighting their product area offerings with a focus on building strength through acquisitions and innovation.

“We’re all about transforming the battlespace where we take various unique technology capabilities into different forms and fashions to create new capabilities,” said James Lackey, who leads Parsons’ Defense and Intelligence Mission Solutions Sector.

Among those capabilities include modeling and simulation technology like the DYSE system and ground-based direct and energy laser systems like ZEUS

“Here at Space & Missile Defense, that’s our core business: Space. Whether you’re talking space situational awareness, space payload integration or ground command and control – we work across the board,” Lackey said. “We have a big presence here in Huntsville, in the North Alabama area, we have about $600 million worth of business in North Alabama.”

Part of that North Alabama landscape sits the Alabama Cyber School of Technology, Engineering and Math. A public charter school, the first of its kind in the United States, gives Alabama high school students an unparalleled advantage – partly thanks to close proximity. 

“Our schoolwork is so close with our space and missile defense industry partners here and integral to the education of the STEAM, embedding all these concepts and ideas into the curriculum that our students are learning,” Matt Massey, president of ACSTE said, pointing out the opportunities students have to get firsthand experience through internships. 

“So it’s great to be here to connect with them in the south and it makes us very relevant and nimble and essential to grow into defense innovation.”

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Torch Technologies was also showcasing the work being done in Huntsville. 

“Torch brings a history of digital engineering that includes modeling and simulation. We do that across almost all of the Army missile programs for more than 20 years,” said Sonny Fey, a Torch Technologies vice president. “We have two large facilities, called our tactical integration and prototyping centers, where we can do everything from optical lab work, we fly UAVs from there.” 

Also on familiar territory this week is the University of Alabama in Huntsville. With its world-class degree programs sending off graduates who land in this industry continually – UAH is showcasing their teaching and research capabilities in hypersonics, Artificial Intelligence, cybersecurity, aerial systems and more. 

UAH research regularly ranks among the top 20 universities in research funded by NASA and the Department of Defense.

“UAH faculty, researchers and students embrace the challenges on display at SMD,” Dr. Robert Lindquist, UAH vice president for Research and Economic Development said. “The partnerships created between UAH and the SMD community provide local opportunities that have global impact and help develop a high-quality technical workforce that drives a growing economy.”

Daniel Wilson is an attorney for Butler Snow. The firm’s Government and Regulatory Practice group supports many of the companies showcasing at SMD this week – making them a perfect sponsor for the event. He said the annual symposium in Huntsville is the flagship of its kind. 

“Cutting-edge technology, great educational and relationship building opportunities, hearing from top officials. SMD really brings it all together,” Wilson said. “It’s an honor to support this industry and the people who go to work every day focused on making this country safer and delivering high-quality innovation.”

Grayson Everett is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @Grayson270

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