American Public University System (APUS) and the Policy Studies Organization (PSO) have announced two keynote speakers for the third annual Space Education and Strategic Applications Conference (SESA), to be held virtually September 22-23. The event is free and open to the public; visit here to see the latest event updates.

Dr. Sian Proctor, the first African-American woman to pilot a spacecraft, and Carl Starr, a well-known telescope expert and Mission Operations Manager for NASA, will be keynote speakers at an event which will bring together leaders, innovators, and industry decision-makers to focus on ‘Fifty Years from the Moon: The Future of Commercial, Government, and Military Space Exploration.’

The speakers each have decades of experience and have made significant scholarly contributions to space studies. Dr. Proctor is a geoscientist, explorer, space artist, educator, and astronaut who is now the mission pilot for the Inspiration4, the first all-civilian mission to orbit space. She is an analog astronaut, notably leading the all-female SENSORIA Mars 2020 mission at the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) Habitat.

“I believe that we all need to strive for a J.E.D.I. space: a just, equitable, diverse, and inclusive space as we advance human spaceflight.” said Dr. Proctor. “SESA offers an opportunity for our industry to come together at all levels and explore this mindset from many different, valuable perspectives—because when we solve for space, we also solve for issues on earth.”

Starr—a 2020 Goddard Outstanding Public Leadership Medal recipient who earned a bachelor’s and master’s in Space Studies from American Military University—is now Missions Operations Manager for the James Webb Space Telescope Project at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and has been part of the team since 2004. In this role, he has been responsible for Observatory operations after the telescope is separated from the launch vehicle.

“In my work with the James Webb Space Telescope Project, I see firsthand the importance of coordinated communication within the space industry, where collaboration is the key to exciting new breakthroughs,” said Starr. “The third annual SESA conference is sure to lead to enriching conversations for space professionals, scholars, and students alike as we strive for new answers.”

The conference will promote multidisciplinary conversations about issues related to both military and commercial space—at the intersection between science, technology, education, and policy. Conversations on ethics and philosophy will also span the social and political spectrums impacting space studies today. Talks from numerous faculty, students, and guest experts will discuss topics including science, engineering, law, exploration, commercial and military development, education, defense and security, and women in space.

SESA organizer, APUS, through its schools–American Military University and American Public University—offers leading undergraduate and graduate degree programs in Space Studies that align with the growing demand for space professionals across the military, as well as public and private sectors. For instance, APUS offers a remote access experience with its online 24-inch robotic telescope, located in an observatory at APUS’s Charles Town, West Virginia campus. The University’s Observatory boasts one of the largest telescopes in the region—a Planewave CDK-24 fully remote-controlled telescope—equipped with sophisticated digital cameras to allow for innovative research and exploration within the program.

“As the space industry continues to conquer new frontiers for the private sector as well as the military, American Public University System is proud to lead our third annual SESA conference bringing the brightest minds from industry, government, military, and academia together for critical conversations on pivotal developments,” said Dr. Vernon C. Smith, Provost of APUS. “Beyond the SESA conference, APUS remains committed to scholarly work in Space Studies, through our program curriculum and academic quarterly Space Education and Strategic Applications Journal.”

Through the APUS Center for Space Studies (CSS), faculty work with students to support the development of a workforce for the growing needs in the space sector – while also coordinating space-related educational research and scholarly publishing activities across the University. APUS also releases a SESA Journal in conjunction with the Policy Studies Organization (PSO), to curate recent insights within the field.

About American Public University System

American Public University System (APUS) delivers accessible and affordable online higher education to adult learners of all backgrounds. APUS, a five-time recipient of Online Learning Consortium’s (OLC) Effective Practice Award, offers more than 200 online degree and certificate programs through American Public University as well as American Military University, the #1 provider of higher education to the U.S. military and veterans.* With over 114,000 alumni worldwide, APUS is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), an institutional accreditation agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. APUS is a wholly owned subsidiary of American Public Education, Inc. (Nasdaq: APEI). For more information, visit

*Based on FY 2019 Department of Defense tuition assistance and Veterans Administration student enrollment data, as reported by Military Times, 2020.