October 4—5, 2018
Houston, TX, USA



Public Event: 6:00-8:00PM

Expanding Houston’s reputation as Space City, USA, Ellington Airport’s Houston Spaceport will exemplify the city’s role as a front-runner in the space race of the 21st Century. As the most urban-centered commercial spaceport to date – Houston Spaceport is within a 15-minute drive of the central business district – this development will serve as a catalyst in making Houston the most cosmically connected city in the world. Because of the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015, the commercial sector is now driving the industry, with private investment in commercial space companies reaching a record $3.9 billion worldwide in 2017. The implications this has on the city, its economy, and its lifestyle has not gone unnoticed, with the spaceport earning both the Houston Business Journal’s Economic Deal of the Year Award and Overall Business Deal of the Year Award in 2016. AERIAL FUTURES: THE NEXT FRONTIER brought together leading thinkers and practitioners to ask how commercial space operations and spaceports will promote economic generation and disrupt urban development impact in the 21st century.


Chris Culbert, Center Chief Technologist at NASA Johnson Space Center

Ken Gidlow, Technical Advisor at FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation

Mario Diaz, Director of Aviation at Houston Airport System

Roger Soto, Director of Design at HOK 

Marcus Martinez, Urban Design Committee at AIA Houston will moderate

Doors Open 6:00PM
Program Begins 6:15PM
Free & Open to the Public
First-Come Seating


THINK TANK + site visit: 9:00AM-6:30PM FULL
Lone Star Flight Museum & Houston Spaceport

We are at the dawn of a new commercial space flight era – from space tourism and micro-gravity research to biomedical research and planetary exploration. Spacecraft are capable of flying beyond the atmosphere into the nearest reaches of outer space and returning to Earth within hours. Like airports before them, spaceports will facilitate new forms of connectivity, this time on an interplanetary scale, resulting in an aerospace revolution.

Commercial spaceports will incorporate airport infrastructure specific to space flight, such as loading pods and longer runways, as well as special aerospace terminal facilities like space flight training centers. The spaceport will be the first stop for anyone going into space and the terminal’s design and program should reflect the excitement and mystery of space travel. Faced with increasingly crowded skies, spaceport design will also need to incorporate changes in regulations, technology, air traffic control and planning.

AERIAL FUTURES: The Next Frontier investigated the emerging commercial human space flight market and the opportunities spaceports provide as catalysts for disruptive innovation in technology and mobility. Spaceports will kick-start a very different space transportation industry from the one we have today, enabling greater supply for humans and cargo to access space. This addition to the transportation industry, and the support of spacecraft and space stations, will add to the regional economy and encourage job growth.

Expanding Houston’s reputation as Space City, USA, the Houston Airport System (HAS) was awarded a license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 2015 to convert Ellington Airport into the 10th commercial spaceport in the United States – the Houston Spaceport. With the most urban-centered spaceport to date, HAS is on its way to becoming a cosmic aviation hub – an ecosystem of multimodal ports capable of handling conventional, supersonic and space planes. Unlike existing, isolated spaceports, Houston Spaceport will coexist with the existing urban fabric, making the city one of the most connected in the world. Additionally, this new spaceport has implications for real estate and urban development in its surrounding land.

As the market for human space travel grows, spaceport operations will become a massive source of revenue. AERIAL FUTURES: The Next Frontier asked how commercial space operations and spaceports will promote economic generation and disrupt urban development impact in the 21st century.



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Agatha Kessler

Agatha Kessler has worked as an executive in the worlds of finance and technology, building international businesses in emerging products with VISA and Hewlett-Packard. Energized by the intersection of technology, business and design, in 2007 she joined Fentress Architects as CEO and is currently their Chairman. She holds an MBA and has lived in many cities around the world. Agatha currently serves on a number of boards, including Chairman of AERIAL FUTURES, Opera Colorado and the Design Futures Council. With a keen interest in the future of air travel, Agatha co-founded AERIAL FUTURES at the same time as she started her pursuit of a PhD in Aviation at Embry- Riddle Aeronautical University

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Alexander Kirby

Alexander Kirby is Managing Director of Final Approach Limited, a consultancy company specializing in creating unique development strategies for airport clients.  These range from sustainable growth of the air service network to maximizing the value of the real-estate assets in and around the airport.  Prior, from 2014 to 2017, Alexander was Senior Advisor to the Board at London Gatwick Airport, the world’s busiest low cost carrier airport welcoming 45.7 million passenger to its single runway.  His primary focus was working with the business and political communities to gain their support the continued growth of the airport. Since August 2016, Alexander has served on the Infrastructure Committee of the Urban Land Institute that provide thought leadership on infrastructure solutions for projects across the UK.  

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Amna Ansari

Amna Ansari is an Urban Designer at SWA and co-founder of think tank UltraBarrio.  She seeks large-scale urban design projects that work systematically toward an ideal future between infrastructure, urbanism, landscape, and technologies. Her recent talks titled ‘Covert Landscapes’ and ‘Flight, Flows and New Fields’ examine behaviors towards technology processing new demands on public space. Amna’s work has been published in ULI Urban Land Magazine ‘Designing for the Driverless Age’ (2018) and ‘Imagining the Driverless City’ (2015), as well as featured in “Fast Company - Co.Exist Futurist Forum”, creating speaking engagements with Boston Society of Architects as a panelist for ‘Smart Cities’. As an alumnus of MIT, Amna takes a research approach to her understanding of cities as a means of exchange between discrete systems and technologies.


Arturo Machuca

Arturo Machuca is the General Manager of the Houston Airport System’s Ellington Airport. He is also the lead on the Houston Spaceport project. With over 30 years of sales and marketing experience in the aviation industry, Arturo joined the Houston Airport System in 2009. His prior responsibilities included economic development, industry affairs and business relations for all three airports. Over the last three years, Arturo has been instrumental in the licensing and development of the Houston Spaceport at Ellington Airport. Through his efforts, Arturo has executed the Space Act Agreement between the Houston Spaceport and NASA – Johnson Space Center, negotiated the acquisition of the Houston Spaceport’s first dedicated infrastructure—the Houston Aerospace Support Center, and led the SpaceCom Expo, the first Commercial Space Conference in Houston. 

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Chris Culbert

Chris Culbert has spent more than 30 years developing technologies and systems for human spaceflight at the NASA Johnson Space Center. He is currently the Chief Technologist for Johnson Space Center, responsible for coordinating center strategies for technology development and supporting agency wide activities for the NASA Office of the Chief Technologist. During his career he has managed the development of advanced technologies in robotics, automation, avionics, and software for Space Shuttle, Space Station, and advanced human missions. As a division chief, Chris has provided systems support for avionics, software, and other key systems for the International Space Station, Orion, and Commercial Crew.  He has also led the agency’s Human Spaceflight Architecture team, developing concepts for human missions to deep space.


Curtis Fentress

Curtis Fentress is the Principal Airport Terminal Designer at Fentress Architects, an international design studio he founded in Denver, Colorado, in 1980. He is also the Co-Founder of AERIAL FUTURES. Curtis’ airports have garnered recognition worldwide for design excellence and an outstanding “airside-to-curbside” traveler experience. These include game-changing international airports such as DenverIncheon and the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX. Recipient of the AIA Tomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture in 2010, Curtis has developed a reputation as a hybrid architect, developing iconic design and high-profile public architecture.

Dan Verbsky

Dan Verbsky is a Senior Account Manager at LG Electronics for the transportation Industry, LG offers a wide variety of unique Commercial grade display products and solutions, Dan worked as the Director of Hardware Solutions at CMS provider Four Winds Interactive for 7 years. Prior to that he has over 23 years in the display industry with a background in design, installation, support, and solutions consulting.


David Alexander

David Alexander is a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Rice University, where his primary areas of research are solar physics exoplanetary physics and earth remote sensing.  As Director, David is responsible for managing all aspects of the growth and development of the institute. This includes providing vision, direction, and leadership, managing the various institute programs, identifying and fostering research opportunities for our faculty, and interacting with government and the space industry. David was recently named an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Her Majesty the Queen in the Birthday Honours List of June 2018 for services to US/UK connections in the space industry and higher education.


Jason Klimoski

Jason Klimoski is the principal and co-founder of the award-winning architecture and design firm STUDIOKCA. He received his Master in Architecture from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design and his Bachelor of Arts summa cum laude from University of Minnesota where he received the Katherine E. Sullivan Award and the Design Excellence Award from the Danish Institute For Study Abroad. Prior to founding STUDIOKCA, he worked for lighting designer Ingo Maurer in New York and Munich and at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill as a senior designer on projects including the Four Seasons Hotel in City Santa Fe, Mexico, the W Hotel in Denver, the Chase Manhattan Global Headquarters, Kuwait University, and the Manhattan West Project for Brookfield Properties.


Jeffrey S Nesbit

Jeffrey S Nesbit is a doctoral candidate at Harvard University Graduate School of Design, research fellow in the Office for Urbanization and is director of the design group Haecceitas Studio. Jeffrey’s research evaluates the impacts of urbanization and the role of military infrastructure. Currently, his work focuses on the spaceport complex from the 20th century through historical technology, planetary urbanization, and the remote landscape. Jeffrey has written a number of journal articles and books chapters on infrastructure and urbanization. He is co-editor of Chasing the City: Models for Extra-Urban Investigations (Routledge, 2018) and recently named co-editor of New Geographies 11: Extra Terrestrial (Actar, 2019). Jeffrey has taught architecture and urban design as an Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina Charlotte and Texas Tech University.  


Jonathan Irawan

Jonathan Irawan is a Computational Designer at HASSELL Studio. His body of work specializes around the implementation of experimental and innovative design and construction methodologies, focused around highly responsive adaptive systems, behavioral analysis and simulation. His mission lies in bridging the gap in design technology research between academia and industry implementation, constantly experimenting and prototyping to augment the design process. Having previously worked and gained experience in delivering multidisciplinary projects within Asia, Australia and the UK, he incorporates a wider perspective in the formulation of design solutions. Jonathan is engaged in the development of Phase 3 in NASA’s 3D Printed Habitat Centennial Challenge to design the first autonomously 3D Printed Habitat, capable of sustaining 4 Astronauts in Mars for one year.

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Jonathan Massey

Jonathan Massey is a Managing Principal with Corgan, one of the top U.S. Architectural firms focused on Aviation design. As the head of Corgan Aviation, Jonathan leads one of the world’s largest dedicated Aviation Architecture practices, serving both Airport and Airline clients around the world.  For the past 25 years, he has played a key role in numerous terminal projects ranging in scale from Shanghai Pudong’s 110 gate Satellite Concourse, to state of the art Terminals for the world’s leading Low Cost Carrier, Southwest Airlines. His project experience includes passenger terminal feasibility, planning and design, airport master planning, support facility design and operational planning.  His focus is functional optimization, a tailored passenger experience and an effective planning and design process.  Jonathan is a licensed Architect in multiple states and a LEED Accredited Professional.

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Ken Gidlow

Ken Gidlow is an Aerospace Engineer/Technical Advisor for the FAA Houston Office of Commercial Space Transportation at the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC).  He coordinates FAA Licensing with the NASA Commercial Resupply Services contracts for SpaceX, Northrup Grumman and Sierra Nevada Corp delivering cargo to and from the International Space Station (ISS). Ken also works with southwest-area airports who became 1 of the 11 FAA Commercially-licensed Spaceports.  Prior to opening the FAA Houston Office, he was the FAA Commercial Space Transportation Deputy Manager for the Development Division in the D.C. Headquarters Office.

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Leslie Haas

Leslie Haas directs the business development and marketing efforts for Paragon Space Development Corporation. Prior to joining Paragon, she had more than 25 years of global business experience with Fortune 100 and startup companies in diverse industries including aerospace, energy, and entertainment. Her aerospace experience includes engineering and project management roles on the Space Shuttle and International Space Station as well as program management roles at Moog (formerly Schaeffer Magnetics). Her corporate background includes stints as Vice President and General Manager of the Sony DVD Center which launched the DVD format worldwide and Vice President Business Development for the Sony Pictures Digital Studios Division. She has been recognized in several areas, including the NASA Silver Snoopy Award, Rockwell International’s Engineer of the Year honoree and President’s Leadership award. 


Marcus Martinez

Marcus Martinez is a designer, urbanist and educator based in Houston. His research on urban flight is captured in his latest talk ‘Movement is the Medium’ –a technologically-enabled projective city, based on human behavior, market conditions and contextual specifics. His experience on large urban projects began at EMBT in Barcelona, later adding Houston’s Discovery Green Park, The 2024 Olympics and currently leads the vision for The Pierce Skypark with Page. Marcus has been on faculty as a thesis instructor at the Boston Architecture College, visiting professor of urban design at Texas Tech and now teaches at the University of Houston in both the undergraduate and graduate programs. While developing his thesis at MIT on evolvable infrastructures, he became a researcher at the Media Lab’s Changing Places group where he developed the first iteration of the Personal Elective Vehicle (PEV) featured in a 2012 TED talk.   

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Mario Diaz

Mario Diaz is Director of the City of Houston Department of Aviation. He is responsible for the executive leadership of the Houston Airport System (HAS) and its three aviation facilities — George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) and Ellington Airport (EFD) — and its more than 1,300 employees. He is one of the industry’s leading authorities in the study of future developments in commercial aviation. In 2013, Mario was named “Airport Director of the Year” by Airport Revenue News Magazine.

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Roger Soto

Roger Soto is recognized worldwide for his design expertise in complex corporate, higher education, hospitality, and healthcare planning and design for leading institutions throughout the United States and abroad. He is highly regarded for his expansive knowledge of LEED and sustainability design, his trenchant approach to design and his success in guiding institutions to achieve their strategic goals through optimal facility planning and design. Roger is Design Principal of HOK’s Gulf Coast Region. He is a member of the firm’s Design Board and serves on the Board of Directors. Through his work and thoughtful design leadership, Roger has served an integral role in steering the direction of region today. He is passionate about solving complex problems and weaving his work into the fabric of the city. Based in Houston, he leads collaborative, multidisciplinary design teams on projects in Dallas, Houston, and Tampa.


Rusty Bienvenue

Rusty Bienvenue has served as Executive Director of the Houston Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the Architecture Center Houston Foundation since October, 2010. He has more than 20 years experience running non-profit professional associations having run two large legal associations prior to joining AIA Houston.  He is a recovering attorney who began his career as a prosecutor with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office and later worked for a large Houston law firm defending multi-national corporations involved in large scale product liability litigation. Rusty was born in Houston, but grew up in 11 different cities (small towns really) in 7 different states. He returned to Texas to attend the University of Texas at Austin and to Houston to attend the University of Houston Law Center.  


Sam Ximenes

Sam Ximenes is a Space Architect with over 30 years’ experience in the aerospace industry with NASA, DoD, and international space programs. He has held executive management positions at Lockheed Martin, L-3 Communications, and Futron Corporation with responsibility for business strategies for growth and development of their respective business units in advanced programs and technology insertion for space systems. While at Grumman Corporation he led systems integration and habitation efforts of international partner laboratory modules for the NASA Space Station program. He is currently CEO of XArc Exploration Architecture Corporation, a space architecture consulting firm he founded in 2007. He was a member of the design team for Spaceport America, and United Kingdom spaceport site assessments, and led the effort developing the economic and business case for viability of Houston Spaceport for the City of Houston. 

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Stephen Altemus

Stephen Altemus currently serves as the President and CEO of Intuitive Machines. Founded 4 years ago, Intuitive Machines invents hardware and software solutions for businesses that can benefit from varying degrees of autonomy in their systems, processes, and operations. Intuitive Machines has been solving significant challenges across multiple industries, providing solutions in intelligent autonomous systems, including complex computational modeling, simulations, and digital analytics. Prior to founding Intuitive Machines, Stephen served as the Deputy Director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC), a Center charged with overseeing human spaceflight plans and programs for the Agency. He lead and directed human spaceflight architecting efforts identifying affordable concepts for taking humans to the edge of deep space while growing the US technological economy and continuing international competitiveness, providing the Nation with a sustainable and flexible approach to addressing the major challenges in human spaceflight.

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Terry Biggio

Terry L. Biggio is the Regional Administrator for FAA’s Southwest Region, which covers the states of Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and New Mexico. Appointed to the position in 2018, Terry is the FAA Administrator’s principal representative for this region and its 4,900 employees. As Regional Administrator, he provides corporate leadership and represents the FAA before industry, government organizations, and civic and private interest groups.  He directs delivery of corporate services in the region including command and communication operations, building and facility services, executive services, and cross-organizational project integration. Terry began his FAA career as an air traffic controller in 1981 and is a certified Private Pilot. He has served the FAA for 37 years, and became a member of FAA’s Senior Executive Service in 2013.