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Huntsville flexes industrial might at annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium

HUNTSVILLE — The Rocket City has placed its industrial strength on full display this week as it plays host to leading defense industry titans, military leadership, and major stakeholders in the national space and missile defense network.

Huntsville’s Von Braun Center is hosting the Space and Missile Defense Symposium, a prestigious event consisting of top defense players in both the public and private sectors. The Symposium attendees were introduced to expert panels, technology exhibits, and informative lectures addressing the current and future state of space and missile defense.

Mayor Tommy Battle kicked off the three-day event as he welcomed the nation’s preeminent aerospace and defense network to his city.

The first speaker to take the stage was Commander of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Lieutenant General Dan Karbler, who spoke of the critical role the Command plays in defending U.S. space interests. Karbler said the Command occupies key strategic domains and is crucial to foundational components surrounding missile defense. Additionally, he told the crowd that the Command directly supports the U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) which involves the study, development and evaluation of next-generation technologies.

Karbler warns that the missile systems of U.S. adversaries continue to rapidly advance, naming China and Russia specifically. He also made note of the two regimes persistently testing U.S. dominance in space with their attempts to “disrupt and degrade” GPS signals. He concluded by stating that the Joint Force will demand more from the Army’s capabilities going forward.

Echoing Karbler’s warnings regarding China and Russia was General Glen D. VanHerck, Commander of USNORTHCOM and Aerospace Defense Command. VanHerck said that Russia is focused on long-range cruise missiles and hypersonics with its sights set not on Europe, but the homeland. He mentioned that China is on par with Russia in terms of its cyber and space capabilities.

The general issued a grave warning stating that the Chinese are partaking in a massive build-up of its enhanced nuclear capabilities on land, sea, undersea, and air in attempt to hold the United States at risk. He noted that the challenge the nation’s adversaries traditionally presented was strictly conflictual in nature. However, in modern times, the challenge is economic and geopolitical as well.

According to VanHerck, NORTHCOM’s mission is to demonstrate the willingness and ability to deter adversaries from a strike against the homeland. The Command attempts to integrate modern strategies with their budgeting and acquisition process. Under his leadership, the Command is highly focused on not just regional, but global readiness. VanHerck noted that when he assumed leadership, he wanted to change the philosophy that was presently adhered to by covering a broader scope of directives.

Marshall Space Flight Center Director Jody Singer took the stage to declare that the Huntsville community is leading the way in space flight and exploration. She said the important alliance the Space Flight Center holds with Redstone and industry partners is crucial in forging exploration in the frontier of space. Singer also heaped praise on the operational role Huntsville played in the Orion space capsule, the Artemis Program, as well as the Space Launch System (SLS) and Human Landing System (HLS).

“You know, as we go forward in taking on the biggest and boldest missions we’ve ever done before, it is fun being a part of such a great community,” said Singer. “It’s also fun to talk about the Space Launch System, the world’s most powerful rocket, and I would stress, the only vehicle that was designed from the start to be capable of lifting the Orion space capsule and its astronauts to the moon and be ready to take us, with the systems, there and beyond.”

“We’re also at Marshall Space Flight Center leading the Human Landing System program, which will be landing on the moon in the very near future in the 2024 time period,” she added. “You know, our area reaps the benefits of all of this work. When I think about Marshall Space Flight Center I’m very proud to say that it’s not only about space that we’re working on, but it also benefits our home community as well as the nation. For instance, over 43,000 jobs with an $8.3 billion economic impact is really good – and that’s pretty darn good for such a small organization that only has half a percentage of the nation’s budget. So we don’t say we love living in Huntsville for no reason. You know the benefit isn’t to just us, but to all humankind.”

She concluded, “You know, there are so many synergies that we’ve worked together, so as NASA continues to keep its eye toward Mars, we’ll continue to work with our neighbors on the Arsenal, our commercial partners, our international partners, to create a sustained architect for all of space exploration. So we are happy to be part of Team Redstone, part of space exploration and doing the impossible.”

Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL

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