Annual satellite conference begins at USU

By Arrin Brunson
The Herald Journal
August 13, 2002

There’s nothing little about the 16th Annual Conference on Small Satellites at Utah State University.

Nearly 500 attendees from around the world made opening exercises seem like a meeting of the United Nations on Monday. Additionally, more than 200 exhibitors turned out to show their wares at the four-day conference, eclipsing previous registration records.

Frank Redd, chairman of the conference and director of the Space Dynamics Laboratory, said he never imagined that the Small Satellite Conference, hosted by USU and SDL, would become so popular when it was initiated.

The Small Satellite Conference was born out of a request by former USU President Stan Cazier for campus organizations to plan events in conjunction with the university’s centennial celebration in 1987, Redd said. Attendance at the conference has more than quadrupled since then and its reputation has reached around the world.

Mazlan Othman, director of United Nations Space Operations from 1999 to July 2002, officially opened the conference Monday with the keynote address at the Eccles Conference Center at Utah State.

Othman, who is from Malaysia, followed the latest developments in small satellite technology by reading the proceedings of Cache Valley’s Small Satellite conference from her homeland in years past, proving that the happenings are of interest around the world, Redd said.

She told a packed auditorium of scientists and engineers from around the world that space technology has become an important industry for everyone — even undeveloped countries who can use small satellite technology to deliver information and solve emerging international problems. Without access to the technological advances in space science, Othman said, the digital divide leaves underdeveloped countries farther and farther behind.

“We don’t expect anybody else to solve our problems, so we need to posture ourselves to solve our problems,” Othman said. “We know that small satellites are here to stay. Let us make good on our promise to make them accessible.”

Doran Baker, director of the Rocky Mountain NASA Space Grant Consortium and professor of electrical and computer engineering at USU, said Redd espoused this philosophy nearly two decades ago when he realized the world couldn’t go on paying “astronomical” amounts of money for small satellites.

The technological changes have been “enormous,” Redd said, and the annual Small Satellite Conference at USU has helped make Cache Valley a key player in this arena.

The worldwide image of USU and SDL translates into economic benefits for all Cache Valley residents, Baker and Redd agreed. Nearly 500 Cache Valley residents work for SDL and the hefty $30 to $50 million budget generates a healthy tax base.

Redd said previous discussions about rotating the Small Satellite Conference to other cities were dismissed when attendees voted in favor of coming here every year.

“We have this international group of people from all over the world,” Redd said. “They see Logan. They see the businesses in Cache Valley. They like coming here.”