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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – When people hear the phrase, “Space and Missile Defense,” they may visualize a missile launch, or maybe astronauts floating around the International Space Station, or maybe just a nice photo of the earth from space. It’s likely they don’t think of a crowd of people at Huntsville’s Von Braun Center, but they could.

Starting August 10th there will be hundreds of defense workers, government representatives and military personnel at the VBC for the 2021 Space and Missile Defense Symposium.

“Oh we’re seeing great excitement, not only from the committee but from the exhibitors and the sponsors,” said Bob English who’s with the SMD Symposium Committee.

The excitement is especially prominent this year because unlike 2020, the Symposium won’t be virtual. It will be live.

“It’s like anything else. You can go see it online, but when you can see it, touch it, feel it, talk to the guy who built it, ask questions, there’s a big difference,” said English. The exhibitors will take full advantage of the in-person crowd which will definitely be looking.

For the exhibitors, it’s more than good PR to have the people who decide on and buy the materials for various defense programs actually in the same room with the high-tech gear.

“You have an opportunity here where even the smallest company knows if they’ve come up with something that’s really going to help advance our country’s defense, you know, help our military, it’s an opportunity to show that off,” said English.

Networking is big at the SMD Symposium, and so are the speakers coming for the event. Those include high-ranking military officers from multiple services. A sort of who’s who in space and missile defense.

“We initially thought that a lot of the speakers may want to come in and speak virtually because they’ve been used to doing that for a year. They can sit and their office and don’t have to travel. Every one of them said ‘I want to be there in person.'” English told News 19.

Everyone is expected to pay close attention to this year’s theme, “Space and Integrated Air and Missile Defense in a New Era.”

The only complication this year will be the resurgence of the virus, and organizers for the SMD Symposium are keeping a close eye on the situation and will take appropriate action to keep attendees safe.

The public can check out the exhibits, but you will need an ID and you do have to register. The Symposium runs through August 10 – 12.