Defense Innovation and Space Tech at SXSW!

Defense innovation and space-related content are gearing up to be a more significant part of programming at SXSW than ever before.

There are now over 20 space and defense-related programs, panels, and parties—with more events and programming still in the planning phase yet to be announced. If you are booking tickets, keep in mind the best events range from the 10th-14th.

With Austin quickly becoming the center of gravity for defense innovation and space technology this year, we are likely to see the defense and space communities come together like never before.

Below you will find a running list of panels and events you won’t want to miss this year at SXSW. It will be updated with new information as additional parties and programming are confirmed. If you have an event that was not included in this list, please DM me and the Distinctive Edge Partners team will add it to the list.

In addition to the list below, there are several private VIP events for leaders within the defense and space industry. Distinctive Edge Partners is co-hosting the Space and Defense Innovation VIP Reception, to apply to attend follow the link below.

If your organization wants to get more involved, there are some great opportunities to make a splash and connect with other industry leaders. Connect to us at or send me a DM for more details.

Austin Community College and VMware present GovTech @ SXSW, two days that will showcase the unprecedented partnership of defense, industry, and academia around digital transformation and national security innovation. National security and digital transformation thought leaders will participate in a series of roundtables, panels, and exclusive behind-the-scenes tours.

On Friday, Strategic Roundtables will provide an opportunity for your voice to be heard! Join leaders and peers in the Public Sector to discuss how GovTech issues affect you. Do these issues affect your day-to-day? Your team? Bring your ideas and thoughts for discussion.

On Saturday, Roundtable take-aways will be provided to SXSW moderators, and YOUR IDEAS may be spotlighted in the Saturday, March 12 SXSW conversation.

Friday, March 11

  • 9:00am – 4:00pm | Austin Community College Rio Grand Campus and Army Software Factory Tours (hourly)
  • 2:00pm – 3:00pm | Path to Production: How Does the Public Sector Seamlessly Respond to Digital Change? (Strategic Roundtable)
  • 3:30pm – 4:30pm | DoD Software Factories: How to Shift Culture and Enable Collaboration? (Strategic Roundtable)
  • 5:00pm – 7:00pm | Rooftop Reception

Saturday, March 12

  • 8:00am – 9:00am | International Defense Innovation Breakfast

Below events (noted with an asterisk) are SXSW Official and required valid SXSW credentials. For more information, reach out to

  • *10:00am – 11:00am | Stronger Together! Exporting Commercial Technology
  • *11:30am – 12:30pm | Forging the Future of Public-Private Partnerships
  • *1:00pm – 2:00pm | Transforming Soldiers Into Software Engineers
  • *2:30pm – 3:30pm | Building an Outcomes-based DoD DevSecOps Culture
  • *4:00pm – 5:00pm | To Boldly Go… Cloud-Native in the DoD

Invite only: Defense Innovation and Space Tech VIP Party –Saturday, March 11th from 4:30-8:30 (Email for details about being added to the guest list).

Building an Outcomes-Based DoD DevSecOps Culture

What is the secret to building an outcomes-based software culture in the Department of Defense or other massive organization? It’s not what you think. The Army, Air Force, and Space Force have all figured out how to drive outcomes in the face of unending bureaucracy and organizations that are resistant to change. Learn how these organizations have made it work and leave with advice for your own organizations.


To Boldly Go… Cloud-Native in the DoD

Cloud-native is the new standard for software development, and it revolutionizes the way that enterprises use platforms and DevSecOps to develop, secure, and deploy software applications at scale. Before going cloud-native, software delivery to the Department of Defense could take from three to ten years and security updates could take months to years. Platforms like the Army’s cArmy and Air Force’s Cloud One revolutionized the DoD software development by bringing continuous authorities to operate through CI/CD pipelines that automated development and security operations and brought containerization to the forefront, which resulted in getting to production in less than a year with daily updates. Learn from Service CIOs about the DoD’s cloud-native present and future.


Space Health: Surviving in the Final Frontier

Soon, the number of humans in space will expand from dozens to thousands. The continuing discoveries and innovations stemming from health research in space will benefit not only the participating space travelers, but also all of humanity on earth. Space Health: Surviving in the Final Frontier is a documentary produced by the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) to showcase these emerging opportunities and the future of health driven by spaceflight. Join our discussion.


Startup Life: Aerospace Edition

From raising capital and finding talent to classified meetings with NASA and the Department of Defense, launching an aerospace start-up is a rocket fueled thrill ride. Hear from founders, funders, and early employees of some of the world’s most talked about aerospace start-ups on what life is like, and what it takes to succeed.


Smashing Into Asteroids: NASA’s DART Mission

Asteroids have been hitting the Earth for billions of years. In 2022, Earth hits back with DART, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, NASA’s first space mission to demonstrate a planetary defense technique. The target? A small moonlet in the binary asteroid system Didymos, which poses no threat to Earth. In a scenario ripped from Hollywood blockbusters, scientists and engineers will autonomously direct a spacecraft at an asteroid and smash into it, measuring the orbit change from the ground. DART is a carefully planned experiment that will help determine if kinetic impactor technology—hurtling a spacecraft toward a rocky body at speeds of about 15,000 miles per hour—can serve as a reliable method of asteroid deflection in the event that such a hazard ever heads for the Earth.


Alienating Mars: Challenges of Space Colonization

Human bodies are optimized for life on Earth, and ill-equipped for environments like those we will encounter on Mars. But here at home there are organisms that thrive in the extremes: the coldest, hottest, driest, and saltiest places. As technologies like CRISPR enable us to manipulate our genes, there may be adaptive tools we can borrow from these extremophiles. But while we are absorbed in self-preservation, it will be easy to neglect the planet we hope to colonize by 2050. Humans do not have the best track record when it comes to ethical exploration. While there is no evidence for life on Mars—yet—there is still the matter of an entire land that has no one to speak for it, or to defend it. So in the process of getting humans to Mars, what values may be compromised along the way?


Space Exploration for All: YOU Can Discover Space

The future of space discovery has arrived: It is possible to explore and interact with the Universe, even if you don’t have a seat on the Crew Dragon. Without professional training, even YOU can: Deflect a near-Earth asteroid. Go to Mars. Discover a new and distant planet. Or, accompany a NASA mission to the outer realms of our solar system. It’s time for New Astronomy: a global, knowledge-based trend, through which truly anyone can directly contribute to space exploration and scientific discovery. When passion and technology converge, EVERYONE can explore space, from the comfort of their backyard or with a diverse community across the globe.

Green Space – The Value of Space to Earth

Exploring the final frontier does not mean leaving Earth behind. While the debate around environmental concerns and the modern Space Race becomes more prevalent, there is in fact a shared history of mutually beneficial discoveries and innovations. From satellites to sensors on the ISS, space technology has joined the fight against climate change, providing an invaluable tool for protecting our home planet. Join a panel of former astronauts and industry experts to explore the positive relationship between space operations and Earth.


Hidden No More: Black Women In Space

While the movie Hidden Figures exposed the unknown importance of black women to the US Cold War space program, the NewSpace Revolution is being driven in no small part by those who inherited that role and are dramatically expanding on it – women who are certainly Not Hidden Figures. A frank and free-wheeling discussion on the growing positive impact of black women as leaders of the human breakout into space, and what can be done to help accelerate the trend.

Emerging Leaders in Space Mission Design

History changed with the launch of Sputnik in 1957, and the design of space missions to explore our universe has been amongst the most exciting endeavors of the human race. The people who are designing space missions–from developing compelling science questions and formulating feasible mission designs to leading the teams that make the missions successful–are emerging from diverse backgrounds.

You will hear from women in astronomy and planetary science, and “early-career” space scientists, who are breaking the mold of what space leaders look like. Topics of discussion will include how space mission ideas get started, what exciting scientific missions are coming up, and what needs to be done to increase diversity and inclusion in space mission design and leadership.

Forging the Future of Public-Private Partnerships

What does a community college, a top tech company, and the Army have in common? They share a desire to tackle the challenges of the future in an unprecedented way. Austin Community College and the United States Army are partners in building the Army Software Factory, a first-of-its kind software development capability to transform national security. Beyond national security, this novel partnership will also benefit underserved communities who have not typically had access to industry-leading training. Together, this results in a talent pipeline that will forever change both the Department of Defense and the world’s best tech companies. Learn how we’re building the future of public-private partnerships and what this means for the nation.


 Earth & Space: Living our Interplanetary Future

With society at the cusp of interplanetary civilization, the MIT Media Lab Space Exploration Initiative takes a unique approach to humanity’s horizons. We are building, testing and flying the technologies and tools of exploration that will empower Earth citizens for this new phase of our collective existence. We unite artists, scientists, engineers and designers to prototype our Sci-Fi space future in over 50 annual research projects. The philosophy of “democratizing access to space exploration”—while bringing moonshots AND earthshots into view—courses through our work. We are building a real-life, visionary “Starfleet Academy” for this dawn of expanded human activity, opportunity and responsibility in our cosmos. This session will announce a major “open call” for the SxSW community.


We Need Outer Space. Let’s Clean It Up!

Without realizing it, we on Earth are heavily reliant on the technology orbiting space. Global satellite communications tie the world together. Satellite phones enable communications to remote parts of the world. GPS satellites not only let us navigate to our destination, they keep accurate time and enable us to use ATMs and our credit cards. Satellites also show crop health and support first responders in disasters. Without satellites, our every day lives would be severely disrupted; global business would grind to a halt. In fact, governments would struggle to operate. But, with 2,200 satellites in low Earth orbit today and tens of thousands expected to launch in the next decade, how do we keep space decluttered and available, not just for future satellites but human spaceflight.


The Space Economy for People, Planet, and… Texas

The Space Economy is no longer dominated by government agencies with billions of dollars at their disposal. Thanks to the democratization of space, nearly any organization can leverage the space domain—whether they are using on-orbit sensors to optimize their business objectives or commercializing space travel. Rocket and satellite manufacturers, climate change researchers, analytics companies, government agencies, and more are coming together to create the trillion-dollar ecosystem above our heads that make our tech-forward way of life possible. This Texas-based space startup panel gives the audience insights into the future of space, how it shapes life on Earth and what we need to do to ensure space remains a tenet of our global economy for decades to come.


Democratizing Access to Commercial Space Travel

The demand is very high for commercial space travel — who doesn’t want to experience the life-changing view of earth from the heavens above? Unfortunately, the price tag for this kind of experience is also very high. However, new companies are emerging that are offering slightly more affordable options. Attend this session to learn more about this next wave of options.


The Future with Commercial Space Stations

Space stations have been in orbit for nearly 50 years. Over 250 individuals from 18 countries have visited and more than 3,000 experiments have been conducted on the International Space Station (ISS) since 1998. As the ISS nears its decommission, space opens for the private sector, creating new markets in low-Earth orbit and beyond. With the first commercial space station taking flight in 2024, commercial space stations will offer opportunities for private citizens to envision and live a life in space; for private industries to use space and the microgravity environment for new product development and discoveries; for nations around the world to inspire the next generation of explorers to dream big.

Gain a unique perspective on what the ISS has taught and offered our planet, the current progress and accomplishments in commercializing low-Earth orbit, and the vision for access to space for all humankind., OPTIV Federal, and BMNT will be co-hosting a number of panels at the Driftwood –More details to be announced shortly.

The Capital Factory’s Center for Defense Innovation will be hosting a number of panels and events bringing together Government and Defense Industry disruptors at SXSW. Blocks from the convention center–Capital Factory is home to Army Futures Command, Air Force AFWERX, DIU, NGA, National Guard, and many other 3 letter agencies all under one roof. You can request to join their VIP List here.

Didn’t see your event or panel? Send us an email at to add it to the list.

Badge Prices Go Up on January 27th. Make sure to buy your badge now to access all the great panels and events!

From identification to engagement, Distinctive Edge helps clients foster connections to the key decision-makers who matter most for their organizations. We design integrated communications, marketing and external affairs strategies to impact opinions and outcomes, then place our clients in positions of power in front of key stakeholders who matter most to get results.

Interested in building your marketing and communications strategy? We would love to connect and share how we can help. Book a meeting with us here for a free consultation.