The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) is pleased to announce the winners of the premier lectureships and technical excellence awards. The lectures and awards will be presented during 2021 ASCEND, the centerpiece event of the interdisciplinary community focused on building humanity’s off-world future faster. 2021 ASCEND will be held 8–10 and 15–17 November; registration is open now.


2021 David W. Thompson Lecture in Space Commerce: “Communications Satellites — Then, Now, and Where Next?”

  • Walter Scott, Chief Technology Officer, Maxar
  • Monday, 15 November, 1830–1930 hrs PT
  • This lecture will be given live and in person at 2021 ASCEND in Las Vegas, as well as recorded and available on demand.
  • Dr. Scott also will participate in the Space Founders Panel during 2021 ASCEND, Tuesday, 16 November, 1730 hrs PT.


2021 von Kármán Lecture in Astronautics: “Multi-Domain Convergence of Space and Near-Space

  • David Van Wie, Head, Air and Missile Defense Sector, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
  • Tuesday, 16 November, 1200–1300 hrs PT
  • This lecture will be given live and in person at 2021 ASCEND in Las Vegas, as well as recorded and available on demand.


David W. Thompson Lectureship in Space Commerce

The 2021 David W. Thompson Lectureship in Space Commerce has been awarded to Walter Scott, Chief Technology Officer, Maxar. The lectureship recognizes 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. The award was endowed by Orbital ATK Inc. to commemorate the long and distinguished career of commercial space pioneer, David W. Thompson.


As Maxar’s Chief Technology Officer, Dr. Scott is responsible for the company’s next-generation commercial remote sensing systems, R&D, software architecture, and government relations/public policy. He founded DigitalGlobe in 1992, which became part of Maxar in 2017, and received the first high resolution commercial remote sensing license from the U.S. government. Today, Maxar operates a four-satellite imaging constellation with the best resolution, revisit, accuracy, and greatest capacity in the industry.


From 1986 through 1992, Dr. Scott was with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) where he led the “Brilliant Pebbles” program, a constellation of small (microsat) space-based interceptors for the Strategic Defense Initiative. Prior to LLNL, Dr. Scott founded Scott Consulting, where he developed Unix networking subsystems, and a pioneering email system utilizing public key encryption.


Dr. Scott was named Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young in 2004 for the Rocky Mountain Region in the Emerging Technology category. He serves on the board of the SSPI (Space & Satellite Professionals International), and is a member of the Landsat Advisory Group, supporting the United States Geological Survey, and on the Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate Independent Advisory Team.


von Kármán Lectureship in Astronautics

David Van Wie, Head of the Air and Missile Defense Sector of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHUAPL), has been awarded the 2021 von Kármán Lectureship in Astronautics. Named in honor of Theodore von Kármán, a world-famous authority on aerospace sciences, the lectureship honors an individual who has performed notably and distinguished them
selves technically in the field of astronautics.


At JHUAPL, Dr. Van Wie is responsible for strategic planning and execution of programs advancing the ability of the United States to defend itself and its allies against surface, air, hypersonic, and ballistic threats. Prior to his current appointment, he served as Mission Area Executive for Precision Strike, focusing on advanced weapon development, electromagnetic spectrum dominance, and novel long-range detection and targeting systems.


Dr. Van Wie is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, an AIAA Fellow, and a recipient of the Air Force Award for Meritorious Civilian Service. He served as a member of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board and the National Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board, and has conducted studies for the Defense Science Board, Air Force Studies Board, and Naval Studies Board.


An active member of the U.S. science and technology community, Dr. Van Wie has published more than 140 papers in the fields of hypersonics, high-temperature fluid dynamics, airbreathing propulsion, and plasma aerodynamics. 


AIAA Technical Excellence Awards

The following aerospace professionals will be recognized throughout 2021 ASCEND for their outstanding contributions in their field, having been chosen by their peers from related AIAA technical committees (TC). AIAA is committed to ensuring that aerospace professionals are recognized and celebrated for their achievements, innovations, and discoveries that make the world safer, more connected, more accessible, and more prosperous. Visit AIAA’s Honors and Awards Program for more information.


AIAA Hypersonic Systems and Technologies Award

Dr. Steven H. Walker, Lockheed Martin Corporation, has been awarded the 2021 AIAA Hypersonic Systems and Technologies Award for “outstanding leadership in the furthering of Hypersonic Technology by initiating and managing novel flight demonstrators providing the maturity necessary to transition to operational systems.”


The award recognizes sustained contributions and achievements in enabling technologies and/or the integration of technologies for system applications in the advancement of hypersonic flight.


The award will be presented at the 24th AIAA International Space Planes and Hypersonic Systems and Technologies Conference Awards Reception taking place during 2021 ASCEND (16 November 1700 hrs PT).


AIAA Space Systems Award

Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Team, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is being presented with the 2021 AIAA Space Systems Award for “the design and flight test validation of the first helicopter designed for flight at Mars. This award will be accepted by Håvard F. Grip, Ingenuity Chief Pilot and lead for the Mars Helicopter Flight Control & Aerodynamics, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.


The award recognizes outstanding achievements in the architecture, analysis, design, and implementation of space systems.


Dr. Grip also will join Jennifer Trosper, Mars Perseverance Project Manager, NASA, to deliver the William H. Pickering Lecture during 2021 ASCEND (16 November, 1830-1930 hrs PT). The lecture is named for the former NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory D
irector, to honor his initiation and leadership of America’s unmanned scientific space program, from Explorer I in 1958 through the development of the Viking orbiters and the Voyager outer planet and interstellar missions.


Ms. Trosper will describe the challenges of the development and operations of the most complex robotic vehicle ever sent to the Red Planet along with some initial scientific findings of the mission. Dr. Grip will discuss how Ingenuity graduated from a short-lived flight experiment into a fully operationalized reconnaissance platform. 


AIAA Sustained Service Awards

Michel D. Ingham, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, has been awarded the 2021 AIAA Sustained Service Award for his “tireless commitment to AIAA technical activities, particularly the Information Systems Group, including service as Deputy Director, TC Chair, Conference Technical Chair, and IC Member.”


Frank K. Lu, University of Texas at Arlington, has also been awarded the 2021 AIAA Sustained Service Award for “sustained and diverse leadership in student branch, local section, technical committee, editorial and publications activities.”


This service award recognizes sustained, significant service and contributions to AIAA members. It is truly a unique recognition for those AIAA members who have given their time, dedication, and efforts to AIAA.


AIAA von Braun Award for Excellence in Space Program Management

Fuk K. Li, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is being presented with the 2021 AIAA von Braun Award for Excellence in Space Program Management for “sustained excellence in management of NASA’s New Millennium and Mars Exploration Programs, achieving major breakthroughs in space technology and Mars exploration objectives.”


The award gives national recognition to an individual(s) for outstanding contributions in the management of a significant space or space-related program or project. The award honors Dr. Wernher von Braun, who was one of the world’s first and foremost rocket engineers and a leading authority on space travel.


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AIAA Media Contact: Rebecca B. Gray,, 804-397-5270 cell



Powered by AIAA, ASCEND promotes the collaborative, interdisciplinary, outcomes-driven community of professionals, students, and enthusiasts around the world who are accelerating humanity’s progress toward our off-world future! For more information, visit, or follow ASCEND on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.


About AIAA

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) is the world’s largest aerospace technical society. With nearly 30,000 individual members from 91 c
ountries, and 100 corporate members, AIAA brings together industry, academia, and government to advance engineering and science in aviation, space, and defense. For more information, visit, or follow AIAA on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.