Sir Martin Sweeting awarded 2024 AIAA David W. Thompson Lecture in Space Commerce

Posted on 9 July, 2024 by Advance 

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) has announced that the 2024 AIAA David W. Thompson Lectureship in Space Commerce has been awarded to Sir Martin Sweeting, Executive Chairman, Surrey Satellite Technology, Ltd. (SSTL) and Distinguished Professor, Surrey Space Centre, University of Surrey.

Image courtesy SSTL

The lecture, 'Small Satellites – The Foundation of NewSpace', will be presented on Tuesday 30th July, 12 pm PT, during 2024 ASCEND, 30th July – 1st August, Las Vegas.

Sweeting's lecture will trace 20 years of small satellites' impact on life on Earth and look toward future developments. The emergence in the early 2000s of low cost and rapid response, yet operationally capable small satellites initiated a fundamental gear-change in the economics of space. Two decades later, small satellites are mainstream and the basis of mega constellations in low Earth orbit providing communications and Earth observation services with the private sector now playing a dominant role.

Recent developments in launchers, both large and small, have accelerated this trend, often referred to as 'NewSpace', enabling far wider participation by nations and commercial companies. The next generation of launchers on the horizon will stimulate the next gear-change in space, with dramatic implications for industry and society.

In 1979, with a Ph.D. in radio engineering from the University of Surrey, Sweeting (above) pioneered rapid-response, low-cost, and highly capable small satellites utilising modern consumer electronics to change the economics of space. In 1985, he founded a university spin-off company, SSTL, that has designed, built, launched and operated in orbit over 70 nano, micro and mini satellites for customers worldwide providing missions for communications, Earth observation, space science and the demonstration of active space debris removal techniques.

Sweeting was knighted in 2006 by HM the Late Queen and is a Fellow of the Royal Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Physics. He has received numerous international awards and has been identified as one of the UK's 20 most influential engineers. He is regarded as the 'father of small satellites' that led to NewSpace.

This lectureship recognises a prominent industry leader or senior management team who has created or grown a space-related business and generated substantial economic benefits and market value. It was endowed by Orbital ATK to commemorate the long and distinguished career of commercial space pioneer, David W. Thompson. The lecture will be delivered in person, as well as recorded and available on demand.