Space Enabled Welcomes Affiliated Researchers




by Alessandra Davy-Falconi

May 12, 2021


Space Enabled is welcoming four new Affiliated Researchers to the group: Kevin O'Connell, Kristi Acuff, Dr. Elena Cirkovic, and Frank Tavares. You can learn more about each below:

Kevin O'Connell is the former Director of the Office of Space Commerce in the U.S. Department of Commerce.  He brings over 35 years of experience in the U.S. government, in research organizations, and as an entrepreneur and business leader to this position. Mr. O’Connell has researched and written extensively on the policy, security, and global market issues related to commercialization of remote sensing. Aside from numerous articles and op-eds, he was co-author of Commercial Observation Satellites: at the Leading Edge of Global Transparency (2000). He served as the Executive Secretary and Staff Director of the NIMA Commission (1999-2000). He was a member, and later Chair, of NOAA’s federal advisory committee on remote sensing from 2002-2016. Previously, Mr. O’Connell served as the CEO of Innovative Analytics and Training, a Washington, D.C. professional services firm focused on analysis and decision support for U.S. government and commercial clients. Among other issues, the firm focused on market trends and anticipatory/futures analysis for high-technology industries such as cyber, cloud computing, and geospatial technologies. During this time, he also served as a senior consultant to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and as an independent advisor to the Director, National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. Mr. O’Connell’s background also includes extensive experience in national security and intelligence matters, including assignments in the Department of Defense, Department of State, National Security Council, and the Office of the Vice President. He spent a decade conducting and managing research in these areas at the RAND Corporation, including as the first director of RAND’s Intelligence Policy Center. Finally, Mr. O’Connell has taught a long-running course on comparative intelligence in Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, Security Studies Program.


Kevin M. O'Connell

Dr. Elena Cirkovic is a transdisciplinary legal scholar presently researching the broader topic of Anthropocentrism and Sustainability of the Earth System and Outer Space. Her work focuses on connecting the Earth System (s) and outer space environment (s).  The project identifies planetary and interplanetary environmental challenges: a. climate change and b. environmental problems in outer space (e.g. orbital debris or interplanetary contamination). Dr. Cirkovic’s article “Space, Ice, and the Final Frontiers of International Law: the Cosmo-legal Proposal (German Law Journal 2021) provides an introductory study on the topic and argues for a cosmolegal approach.

As part of her previous research, Dr Cirkovic has published on the topics of citizenship and self-determination in former Yugoslavia (e.g. Architecture of Sovereignty: Bosnian Constitutional Crisis, the Sarajevo Town Hall, and the Mêlée  (Law and Critique 2016), Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Self-Determination, and the Use of Force in International Law (Comparative Law Review 2017).

She has also studied landscape architecture and continues to work in design and visual arts. 

Her SSHRC-funded PhD thesis, completed at Osgoode Hall Law School, focused on indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination and transnational extractive industries in Canada and Peru. She has lived and worked in Canada, Germany, Turkey, and Finland.

Apart from her research, Elena has taught various aspects of international law, aboriginal law in Canada, refugee and migration law, transnational law, and global governance for over ten years. She has taught and supervised undergraduate and graduate students, in addition to giving public lectures on the topic.

Since 2018 Elena has also served as one of the experts for the McGill Manual on International Law Applicable to Military Uses of Outer Space (MILAMOS), with special focus on the use of force. She is a member of the Earth System Governance (ESG) group and Daughters of Themis: International Network of Female Business Scholars.

More recently, she has also joined IUCNWorld Commission on Environmental Law.

She has also studied landscape architecture and continues to work in design and visual arts. Her most recent publication, forthcoming in Anthropocenes, combines some of the interdisciplinary thinking and artwork. 


Elena Cirkovic

Kristi Acuff holds a Master’s degree from Western Colorado University in Environmental Management with a concentration in Global Sustainability. There, she leveraged each opportunity to direct assignments and coursework to the space environment. Kristi began work for Space Enabled during her second year of the Masters program, making the Space Sustainability Rating the focus of her graduate work. Her thesis included case studies on the operational characteristics, brandings, and beginnings of sustainability ratings in the building, higher education, and agriculture sectors.

Throughout her time at Western, Kristi volunteered at the local Gunnison Valley Observatory, where she holds a Board position as the Volunteer Coordinator. Her enthusiasm for public education through Astronomy has led to successful grant writing projects, a solid foundation of basic astronomy, and telescope operation for research and observation.

As a young professional with a diverse skillset, Kristi hopes to one day visit the space environment. She continues work on Space Sustainability issues, as well as further understanding The Overview Effect phenomenon to apply its principles to consensus building efforts. Kristi has a passion for learning new skills, meeting new people, and traveling the world for purpose and experience.


Kristi Acuff

Frank Tavares is a science writer joining the Space Enabled research group as an Affiliated Researcher, where they are thrilled to conduct research exploring an anti-colonial approach to space exploration, particularly in how to approach interactions with other planetary bodies.

They have experience in science communications, astronomy, interactive and prose fiction, playwriting, and more. As a communicator, they have written on topics ranging from astrobiology to quantum computing, aiming to contextualize complex information into human terms. Working with an interdisciplinary group of scholars, they also were the lead author of “Ethical Exploration and the Role of Planetary Protection in Disrupting Colonial Practices,” a submission to the 2023-2032 Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey. They are also a collaborator with the Immersive Realities Lab for the Humanities, where they work on digital projects with a focus on interactive narrative.

Frank grew up in San Diego, CA and graduated from Amherst College in 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Astronomy.


Kate Leary

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