As the International Astronautical Federation continues to grow, Canada should increase its influence

Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program (LEAP). Credit: Canadian Space Agency.

Recently the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) released an updated members handbook. The non-profit organization was created in 1951 and is based in France. The organization now boasts 407 members from 71 countries. Canada is represented by 10 organizations.

IAF and a growing global stage

The IAF the leading international global space organization. It’s annual International Astronautical Congress (IAC) is an event where nation states sign international and bi-lateral pacts and where a lot of “business” happens in side meetings, many supported by national space agencies. More recently, the IAF has begun another event called the Global Space Exploration Conference which generally takes place in the spring while the IAC takes place in the fall.

The IAF also holds an annual Spring Meeting where members meet to discuss upcoming events, decide on abstracts selection and conduct the organizations business.

As you might suspect the leading nation states by membership include the United States (61), France (27), Germany (27), China (21), Italy (19), Russia (17) and Japan (14). I’ll note that Australia in recent years has increased its presence at the IAF and now boasts 15 members.

The membership includes a diverse representation from industry (148), associations (87), universities (72), space agencies (49), research and development (45) and museums (6).

The IAF and its conferences provide a growing global stage for organizations of all types. There are different ways to get involved, including at an early age for university students through the Space Generation Advisory Council’s Space Generation Congress at the IAC.

The IAC includes a plenary program and a technical program. Both are open to contributions. The technical program includes over 30 symposiums and other programs which is an excellent way to get involved and to get noticed.

This years event will take place between October 25 – 29 in Dubai. It will include virtual and in-person events. While it’s too late to submit an abstract for this years event, now is a good time to plan for next year’s IAC which will be held in Paris. The IAF recently reported that they had received 3356 abstracts from 86 countries.

Canada and the IAF

There are 10 Canadian organizations that are members of the IAF. The oldest Canadian members are the Canadian Space Agency and the Canadian Aeronautics & Space Institute (CASI), both of whom joined in 1970.

Other current members include (with join date);

  • MDA (2001).
  • Space Canada Corporation (2009).
  • Canadian Space Society (2011).
  • Western University , The Institute for Earth and Space Exploration (2012).
  • McGill Institute for Aerospace Engineering (2014).
  • NGC Aerospace Ltd. (2014).
  • Space Flight Laboratory (2018).
  • Canadensys (2019).

Canada has hosted the IAC conference on three occasions;

  • 1991, Montreal – 42nd IAC. Hosted by CASI, the Canadian Space Agency and the National Research Council of Canada.
  • 2004, Vancouver – 55th IAC. Hosted by CASI and the Canadian Space Agency.
  • 2014, Toronto – 65th IAC. Hosted by CASI.

Canada should be thinking about hosting the conference again. And this time, unlike in 2014, the Canadian Space Agency needs to be a part any bid along with an organization that will prepare and host the bid.

Currently bids are being accepted for the 2024 IAC. Australia which hosted the event in 2017 is gearing up for another run at the 2024 event. Canada should consider hosting the event between 2025 -2030. It would be a great opportunity to showcase Canada’s lunar contributions among other areas Canada would like to show leadership in.


About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20+ years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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