Sunday, July 13, 2014

Preparing for the 65th International Astronautical Congress; September 29th - October 3rd in Toronto, ON

          by Chuck Black

It's close to being the greatest show on Earth for space scientists, engineers and policy advocates, second perhaps only to the roar of a manned rocket launch.

Preparations and plans are coming together to make the 65th International Astronautical Congress (IAC 2014), which is being held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC) in Toronto, Ontario from September 29th - October 3rd, into the best edition yet of what is generally considered to be the "world's premier space event."

The reasons for these perceptions are simple enough to discern. For example, speakers for the Heads of Agencies Plenary of the 2013 International Astronautical Congress (IAC 2013), which was held last September in Beijing, China included Chen Qiufa, the head of the China National Space Administration (CNSA); NASA administrator Charles Bolden: Jean-Jacques Dordain, the Director General of the European Space Agency (CSA); Russian Federal Space Agency (ROSCOSMOS) deputy director Sergei Saveliev; Canadian Space Agency (CSA) president Walter Natynczyk; Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) chairman Radha Krishna and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) president Naoki Okumura.

A similar line-up of heavy hitters is expected for IAC 2014.

But while many of the accolades are reserved for the annual gathering of space agency heads, the event is also a technical congress which brings together thousands of scientists, advocates and business executives from around the world to discuss issues of importance to the space community and build the connections needed to encourage and expand outer both space activities and international co-operation.

"We expect to see many bilateral and multilateral meetings and exchanges of information among space agencies, military representatives, the private sector and even space advocacy groups which would be difficult to organize without the cover of an IAC," said local organizing committee (LOC) chair Ron Holdway during a phone interview last week.

Holdway is currently putting in long nights preparing for the event, which so far boasts over 100 exhibitors and sponsors, about 80% of the available capacity, since he spends his days as the ‎vice-president of government relations for Cambridge, Ontario based COM DEV International.

Of course, he's still expecting to corral a few others over the next two months.

"We need to tie down a few more agencies. We've currently got NASA, ROSCOSMOS, the Israeli Space Agency, the Chinese Space Agency and the UK Space Agency but I know we'll be tying down a few more over the next little while," he said.

IAC 2014 logo superimposed over the MTCC. According to the IAC website, the event "is the one place and time of the year where all global space actors come together." The event attracts more than 3,000 participants each year. Graphic c/o IAC

Current sponsors include ABB, the Aerospace Corporation, Airbus, Boeing Defense, MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA), Space Systems Loral (SSL) and quite a few others. As well, Lockheed Martin will be acting as the "industry anchor sponsor" and financial support has been provided by Tourism Toronto and the Government of Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation plus the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment.

According to Holdway, the Canadian organizers are working hard to get the CSA and Canadian expertise front and centre for the event. "No space agency, with the exception of the UK Space Agency, is in expansion mode. We all benefit from comparing our experiences to those of our peers."

The event is hosted by the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute (CASI) and organized by the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) with the participation of the International Institute of Space Law (IISL) and the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA). 

The first IAC was held in Paris, France in 1950 and was an initiative set up by space expert, author and enthusiast Alexandre Ananoff (who also advised fellow author Hergé on his Tintin books "Destination Moon" and "Explorers on the Moon"). Graphic c/o IAC1950 history page.

As outlined by CASI executive director Geoffrey Languedoc, there are even a few openings for those wishing to volunteer for the event if they contact the volunteer coordinator at

All in all, while IAC2014 might not quite provide the roar of a manned rocket launch, the event certainly has enough buzz to fill a room full of opportunities to meet and interact with the people who build and launch them. 

Be there or be square. 

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