Dubai hosted International Astronautical Congress set to start

International Astronautical Congress - Dubai 2021. Credit: UAE/IAF.

The annual International Astronautical Congress (IAC) will be a smaller affair this year due to Covid-19 pandemic including a much smaller Canadian presence.

The International Astronautical Federation which organizes the International Astronautical Congress made the decision earlier this year along with the local hosts in Dubai, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, to go ahead with an in-person event. This, after switching the event to a virtual one last year and postponing the Dubai event by a year.

It was a difficult decision with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and uncertainty over hosting in-person events pervasive. But the decision was made and here we are, just three days from the official opening.

IAC 2020 in Dubai was meant to be a crowning event for the United Arab Emirates as they make their presence known in the space community with an aggressive space plan. So while this event will be smaller than they had hoped, I think it’s safe to say the space community is well aware of their announced plans.

I’ve spoken to many people about this years event. It seems to be an even split on whether they would attend. In Canada, the Canadian government led by Global Affairs Canada (GAC) was less than enthusiastic in supporting Canada’s growing space sector and initially declined to fund a pavilion. When it was clear the event was going to happen in person and when several key people in the Canadian space community pushed back, GAC backpedalled and started to work with the community on some type of presence, but ultimately declined to support a pavilion. It didn’t help that Dubai organizers themselves seemed disorganized according to SpaceQ sources.

While this years event has only a handful of fewer sponsors than IAC 2019 in Washington, its the exhibitors area that is much smaller with 1/3 fewer exhibitors.

The program

While the program this year has some good content but it’s clear its been affected as well. The Heads of Agencies plenary will be smaller and doesn’t include NASA’s administrator Bill Nelson, though Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy will be there. Canada’s Lisa Campbell is listed as a speaker along with ESA’s Josef Aschbacher, Russia’s Dmitry Rogozin, India’s K. Sivan and Japans’s Hiroshi Yamakawa. Sending a video message is China’s Kejian Zhang.

The Heads of Emerging Agencies looks interesting with representation from Azerbaijan who will host the IAC in 2023, Morocco, South Africa, Brazil, Turkey and Colombia.

Other plenaries include:

  • Expeditions 60/61 Reunion
  • Small Satellites Solving Climate Challenges
  • Mars 2020: First Step towards Mars Sample Return
  • Innovative Space Solutions for Search and Rescue and Life Saving Applications
  • Next Generation Impact on Social Responsibility in Space

The Highlight Lectures include:

  • The OSIRIS-REx Sample Return Mission – The Value of Planning Ahead and Adaptability
  • Twenty Years of Saving Lives from Space; how space agencies are contributing to relief efforts through the “International Charter Space and Major Disasters”
  • IAF World Space Award – Accomplishments of the Hayabusa2 Mission: Sample Return from C-type Asteroid Ryugu

The Technical Program Symposium Keynotes include a Canadian topic:

  • A3.3b Emirates mars mission: science instrument overview
  • B1.1 Committee on earth observation satellites (ceos): 2021 report of activities to the international astronautical congress
  • B1.6 Canada’s emergency geomatics for disaster response: use case of the 2019 floods
  • B3.1.1 NASA’s plans for human space exploration
  • B3.1.2 Human spaceflight within esa’s space exploration programme for the next decade
  • B4.3 Capstone: pathfinder for the lunar gateway
  • B4.5 Speed to space: dedicated launch for small satellites on electron
  • C1.6 On perturbation solutions in the restricted three-body problem dynamics
  • C4.8-b4.5a Elecric propulsion for cubesats: a review
  • D2.7 Building the infrastructure of space: small launch to connectivity
  • E1.4 Unisat platform and lunar-mars mission in gauss
  • E6.3 the need for nascent industry and ecosystem infrastructure

As for the technical program itself, at a glance it appears that nearly half the Canadian presenters withdrew their accepted papers and won’t present. While it’s not unusual that some speakers to withdraw, the number seems higher this year. Regardless, if you peruse the many presentations you will find a Canadian presence.

SpaceQ is not in attendance this year but will report on any newsworthy events.

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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