Friday, 5 October 2012

Moonwalker's tribute

Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon, received a standing ovation after offering a moving and poignant personal tribute to his former colleague Neil Armstrong on the final day of the 63rd International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Naples, Italy, today (Friday, 5 October).

The presence of Aldrin, alongside two European astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut, guaranteed there was standing room only in the International Astronautical Federation's (IAF) Global Networking Forum (GNF) meeting room.

Aldrin said that he had hoped that all three members of the Apollo 11 crew - Armstrong, Mike Collins and himself - would have been around to celebrate together the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing in 2019.

"His one ‘small step' changed the world and will forever be remembered as a landmark moment in all of human history," said Aldrin.

He also showed his film ‘The Apollo Dream', adding that Armstrong, who died in August, had left the world a strong and lasting legacy which everyone had a duty to fulfill.

After his presentation, European astronauts Christer Fuglesang and Paulo Nespoli, along with cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev, gave short presentations on their spaceflight experiences and then answered a variety of questions from the audience.
The GNF, an evolution and transformation of the former IAF Cluster Forum, proved a big success throughout the week, attracting a large number of delegates to a range of meetings and sessions.

It included several dedicated days and sessions, including a Heads of Agencies press conference, an Industry Day, and sessions looking at the Social Impacts of Human Spaceflight and Space Careers, as well as the Astronauts' Day.

During Industry Day (Tuesday, 2 October) panels of industry and space organisation experts debated the economic impacts of Satellite Navigation Systems, Earth Observation challenges and the new European-developed rocket Vega.

Among the items that came up for discussion during the session on ‘Economic impacts of Satellite Navigation Systems' was the dispute over satellite navigation frequencies between China and Europe.

Paul Weissenberg, Deputy DG, Enterprise and Industry Directorate-General of the European Commission, stated that it had been agreed to take their dispute to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) by the end of this year.

The GNF was also the location on Wednesday for the IAF's extraordinary session at which space-flown flags were handed to member organisations to commemorate the Federation's 60th anniversary.

The flags - flown on Soyuz TMA-20, the International Space Station, Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-134), and China's Tiangong-1 and Shenzhou-9 spacecraft - were presented to IAF member organisations by President Berndt Feuerbacher.

The above is one of a series of daily reports from the International Astronautical Congress 2012 held in Naples, Italy, written by Clive Simpson for the Paris-based International Astronautical Association (IAF) and first appearing on the IAF website

SpaceX on target

Delegates at the 63rd International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Naples, Italy, were treated to a first-hand update on the latest news from commercial space company SpaceX on Friday, 5 October - just two days before the planned launch of its latest mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

Introducing the third ‘breaking news' session of the week Barry Matsumori, Senior Vice-President of Commercial Sales and Business Development at SpaceX, quipped that he and his colleague Robert Feierbach, Vice-President of Business Development, were the only two employees not working on Sunday's launch.

On the heels of a successful debut flight to the Space Station in May of this year, SpaceX launches its first commercial Dragon resupply mission to the Space Station under a contract that will see 12 such missions.

Launch of the SpaceX CRS-1 flight was set for 20:35 EDT on 7 October from Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

After arrival at the ISS on 10 October, Dragon, grappled and berthed to the complex for an expected two-week visit, is scheduled to return to Earth on October 28 for a parachute-assisted splashdown off the coast of southern California.

Dragon is currently the only Space Station cargo craft capable of returning a significant amount of supplies back to Earth, including experiments.

For this mission, it is filled with about 1,000 pounds of supplies, including critical materials to support the 166 investigations planned for the Station's Expedition 33 crew.

Dragon will return with about 734 pounds of scientific materials, including results from human research, biotechnology, materials and education experiments, as well as about 504 pounds of Space Station hardware.

Matsumori explained that SpaceX had been in existence for just a decade, making it a young company in aerospace terms. "We have come a long way in that time and now have 1800 employees which are growing at around 200 per year," he said.

SpaceX currently launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California but Matsumori said the company is looking at the possibility of an additional commercial launch site.

"We want to ensure we have plenty of capacity and a new launch site would be used particularly for sending payloads into geostationary orbits," he said.

Potential sites under evaluation are in South Texas, where the company also has an engine test range, Florida, and "other locations" on mainland USA.

Matsumori wasn't able to provide further details but said that the timing of any new site coming on stream would be largely dependent on the length of time required for environmental approvals.

He described SpaceX as an ‘internet' company and said that it had a reputation in the industry for being very competitive, and was driven by the goals of achieving high reliability and lost cost production.

The company's current product line comprises the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule, the Falcon 9 with a 5.2 metre fairing, and the upcoming Falcon Heavy - essentially made from three Falcon 9's strapped together - which is under development.

"The Falcon 9 - so-called because it has nine engines and after the Millennium Falcon spacecraft of Star War's fame - is a two-stage vehicle for reliability and simplicity," he explained.

During the session, Matsumori also gave a technical overview of the summer's COTS 2 (Commercial Orbital Transportation Service) mission carrying cargo to the ISS for the first time and showed a short film of mission footage.

Afterwards, he said the simplicity of the film wasn't able to convey the true complexity of the flight in all its detail. "It was our first mission to the ISS and we didn't want to make any mistakes," he told delegates.

The above is one of a series of daily reports from the International Astronautical Congress 2012 held in Naples, Italy, written by Clive Simpson for the Paris-based International Astronautical Association (IAF) and first appearing on the IAF website

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Unique space flags

The only objects on Earth to have flown on all spacecraft belonging to all nations with an active human spaceflight programme formed part of an extraordinary presentation by the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) at this year's 63rd International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Naples, Italy.

Special IAF 60th anniversary flags - flown on Soyuz TMA-20, the International Space Station, Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-134), and China's Tiangong-1 and Shenzhou-9 spacecraft - were presented to IAF member organisations by President Berndt Feuerbacher.

The flags, in commemorative frames along with mission logos and flight authentification certificates, were handed out to IAF member organisations as tokens of recognition and gratitude during an Extraordinary Session of the IAF General Assembly on Wednesday (4 October).

In his introduction to the presentations Prof Feuerbacher said this was the first time the IAF had arranged an extraordinary session for such an "extraordinary event".

He explained that for the IAF's 60th anniversary in 2011 the Executive Director at the time, Philippe Willekens, had wanted something unique and of value for members and came up with the plan for an anniversary flag to be flown in space.

Sergey Savelyev, Deputy Head of Roscosmos, said it had been in everyone's interests to support the initiative. "There is no limit to what we can do as an international team and the IAF helps us to do that. It was our privilege to fly these flags," he stated.

Zhasya Wang, head of China's manned spaceflight programme, added his own endorsement, saying: "We believe this event is an example of how IAF efforts can help advance the human spaceflight programme.

"Our agency is honoured to part of this great event and we gave our support, even though it came to us at short notice.

"Even though we had payload limitations we finally got approval from central government to complete the full circle of flying the flags on all of the space vehicles of the world."

Before handing out the frames flags Prof Feuerbacher expressed his sincere thanks to Roscosmos, NASA and the Chinese Manned Space Agency for this "wonderful cooperation".

The above is one of a series of daily reports from the International Astronautical Congress 2012 held in Naples, Italy, written by Clive Simpson for the Paris-based International Astronautical Association (IAF) and first appearing on the IAF website

Curiosity's journey of discovery

The ‘promised land’ beckons for the Curiosity Mars rover but it is likely to be around six months before the car-sized craft arrives in the foothills of Mt Sharpe whose rocks may have preserved a geological record of the ancient Martian environment.

Just two months into its mission on the red planet, delegates at the 63rd International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Naples, Italy, were treated to a first-hand update on the progress of the Curiosity Mars on Thursday, 4 October during the second ‘breaking news' session.

Richard Cook, Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Project Manager, described the mission as making a "great start" to a deeply interesting mission.

Reviewing the ‘seven minutes of terror landing', he said that what Curiosity is going to achieve on the surface will be equally inspiring as its spectacular landing.

He explained that the Gale Crater objective was chosen after a labourious process spread over several years - selected on the basis that it is most likely to offer a glimpse into the ancient history of Mars based on its rock records.

He likened Gale Crater - 150 km across with the central peak of Mt Sharpe rising to 4,000 metres - as similar in size and elevation to the ‘big' island of Hawaii.

"It gives you an idea of the scale and the challenge of trying to explore that - for the first two years, we will essentially be driving in the foothills."

He said that from a landing site safety perspective, mission planners couldn't have picked a better spot and that Curiosity would now be moving away from the direction of Mt Sharpe in order to explore a close by alluvial fan area in the opposite direction of originally planned travel.

Cook explained that the basic mission concept was to use either the onboard scoop or drill to acquire samples of rock or soil for testing.

In order to select which part or area of a rock to sample, Curiosity will use its ChemCam laser to vaporise a small portion of a potential target rock and analyse its spectral composition. This will help scientists determine which rocks or areas are of most interest to sample with the scoop or drill.

"We intend to use ChemCam repeatedly in any given area to help identify rocks that will be of the most interest," he explained.

Curiosity is capable of travelling around 200 metres a day but is unlikely to proceed at that kind of rate to the prime target area in the foothills of Mt Sharpe because scientists will want to "stop off on the way" to look at interesting features in closer detail.

Cook estimated that the journey to the lower reaches of Mt Sharpe would likely take around six months once extra stopping time for science work is factored in.

He showed a number of stunning Mars images, including one of the latest Curiosity releases of a conglomerate rock which has already given scientists their strongest indication yet that water once flowed in the landing area.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter images will be used to track the progress of Curiosity across the surface and he described a view showing the rover's first short traverse with its tracks in the Martian soil as a "gee wiz" image.

He said that cross-contamination from Earth had been a big area of concern during mission planning and in a pre-planned exercise, the rover team had already been using Mars' soil to clean through the sampling system prior to feeding in a collected sample for the first time.

Cook announced that they were preparing for the first scoop sample within the next 24 hours and that it would be about a month longer before the first drill sample is taken.

"The difference with this mission compared to the Spirit and Opportunity rovers is that you have to think about chunks of time rather than one day at a time - it is that much more complicated," he said.

"In a way the mission is still in 'cruise' phase," Cook added. "Curiosity is going to continue to surprise us and show us new things. This kind of mission doesn't get boring and the promised land is yet to come."

The above is one of a series of daily reports from the International Astronautical Congress 2012 held in Naples, Italy, written by Clive Simpson for the Paris-based International Astronautical Association (IAF) and first appearing on the IAF website

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The perfect map

When natural disaster strikes in any part of the globe, the space agencies of the world spring into action to provide valuable and timely data from the unique vantage point of Earth orbit to help with critical relief efforts.

Tsunamis, forest fires, earthquakes, volcanoes or other phenomena can have both immediate and far-reaching effects on the population and the ecology of the land, as the recent tsunami on the coast of Japan demonstrated.

With the shadow of Mt Vesuvius close by, the topic was also close to the heart for delegates attending the fifth Plenary session on Wednesday, 3 October at the 63rd International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Naples, Italy.

One expert in disaster relief operations, Francesco Pisano of the United Nations, told delegates that in crisis management, the end user was not always looking for "the prefect map".

This is because the situation can often change within hours - and he urged those responsible for providing Earth Observation (EO) data not to become obsessed with detail.

As Manager of UNOSAT (Operational Satellite Applications Programme) at the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), Pisano explained that he made regular use of EO data.

UNOSAT is an operational programme of the United Nations, offering humanitarian aid and relief coordination, human security, and territorial planning and mapping.

"In the professional domains represented in this gathering, we all have responsibility," he stated. "Mapping from satellites is now a standard and serious business - it is no longer about ‘stunning' audiences."

He said that space provides a "slice of the sandwich" to enhance the decision-making capacity of those who have to take action in disaster situations.

Pisano went on to suggest that in order to make data "digestible" for local use - where there may be no or little expertise in EO data interpretation - more decisions by operators had to be user-driven.

Overall the Plenary looked at three key elements of disaster monitoring:
  • the role of space in the pre-crisis period (risk assessment, prevention and preparedness), including in particular on the consideration and presentation of a large range of usable sensors and missions,
  • the role of space in crisis response, including the role of the International Disaster Charter: how it works, its main achievements to date and future challenges,
  • and post crisis disaster management, with an important focus on user needs, and covering volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis and other disasters.
Maurice Borgeaud, Head of Department, Science, Applications and Future Technologies Earth Observation Directorate at ESA, agreed that in order to deliver the most valuable kind of data, the space community needed to question exactly what users wanted.

He explained that ESA, a member of the International Charter for Space and Major Disasters, had a huge archive of Earth Observation (EO) data from the ERS and Envisat missions which was invaluable when wanting to compare current data with that from the past.

He described three stages of disaster risk management - pre-disaster, disaster response and post-disaster and explained how EO data could help with each.

Masanori Homma, Executive Director, Space Applications Mission, Spectrum Management, Space Tracking and Data Acquisition, and Environmental Test Technology, at JAXA, said Japan had introduced the concept of ‘Sentinel' to the Asia region over the past four to five years.

Space provides value-added information and he showed examples of satellite EO images taken before and after the Tsunami of March 2011 showing the extent of the flooded areas. "Such imagery gives us an overview of how serious such a disaster is," he said.

"Satellite data helps us find solutions to some problems," though data supplied from many different satellites includes duplications because of similar orbital parameters.

He urged delegates and those responsible for defining and operating new systems to work together to ensure coverage is as wide as possible.

Satellites can also play a role in assisting post-disaster recovery efforts. One example being navigation satellite systems which can help with efficient infrastructure reconstruction.

Homma also warned that ground systems could be vulnerable in large scale disasters and operators should consider ways of making the ground segment as robust as possible.

The above is one of a series of daily reports from the International Astronautical Congress 2012 held in Naples, Italy, written by Clive Simpson for the Paris-based International Astronautical Association (IAF) and first appearing on the IAF website

China's first space woman

China’s first female astronaut proved a major draw when she appeared at the 63rd International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Naples, Italy, this week.

During the first of the Congress’ early morning Breaking News sessions on Wednesday (3 October), Liu Yang spoke about her mission and introduced a film showing highlights of the flight.

The 33-year-old became the first Chinese woman to fly in space when she and two male crew mates blasted off aboard the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft in June of this year.

Two days later, the three taikonauts (the Chinese term for astronauts) hooked up with the already orbiting Tiangong 1 module, pulling off China's first-ever crewed space docking.

She said she was astonished by the beauty of Earth as seen from space, and that she was pleasantly surprised by the toy panda that had been left aboard Tiangong 1 by the ground crew.

An illustrated overview of the flight was given by Dr Zhaoyao Wang, Director of China’s Manned Space Agency, covering mission planning and implementation.

Dr Zhaoyao Wang speaking at IAC 2012.
He revealed that the Chinese space station is expected to be completed and fully operational around 2020 and said China intended to strengthen international exchange and cooperation in its future development and operation.

"During the operational phase, the Space Station will conduct long-term man-tended operations with the nominal status of three crew who will alternate every half year," he explained.

Dr Wang said that the construction phase would see intermittent visits and stays depending on mission requirements and that some EVAs would be performed.

Artist's impression showing elements of China's space station.
There will also be a cargo re-supply ship sent up to the orbiting complex between one and two times a year.

Asked about the possibility of a second mission, Liu Yang said that flight schedules were closely connected with the country’s development programme.

"The next mission will come soon, and whether I am selected or not, I am preparing all the time for the country’s selection," she said.

Lui Yang in Naples with her minder.
As well as on-going training, Yang said part of her work now involved sharing her experiences with others who have yet to make a spaceflight.

Another crewed Chinese mission (Shenzhou 10) to Tiangong 1 is planned for next year but the officials with the Chinese delegation said a date for launch had not yet been announced.

Lui Yang poses with Clive Simpson.
The above is one of a series of daily reports from the International Astronautical Congress 2012 held in Naples, Italy, written by Clive Simpson for the Paris-based International Astronautical Association (IAF) and first appearing on the IAF website

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Chasing the vision

Delegates at the 63rd International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Naples, Italy attending the third Plenary session on Tuesday, 2 October heard of exciting developments in commercial space transportation.

Though still in its infancy, the Plenary heard that many problems were now being addressed in the fields of technology, engineering, physiology, regulations and business to bring the fledgling sector to full fruition.

Some studies agree that in a few decades, the number of people spending days, weeks, months or even years in low Earth orbit (LEO) could reach hundreds or thousands.

One member of the panel avidly chasing the vision was Alan Bond, Founding Director of Reaction Engines, who told delegates there was a difference between what is happening in space transportation terms at present and the revolutionary new kind of space system being developed in the UK by his company.

"Space transportation has got to move a lot further than where things stand at the present time," he said. "I would like to see over the next 10 to 20 years us moving to where operators ‘operate' and manufacturers ‘manufacture'. This is where the business has to go."

Describing the United States as a country that has always been very entrepreneurial, Bond said he thought Europe lagged behind in that vision because "we were locked into thinking mostly in terms of government backed programmes".

To illustrate the point he said that 90 percent of funding for current Skylon engine development came from the private sector.

At present the major focus on his Skylon single-stage-to-orbit craft is in proving the ground-breaking technology of the air-breathing rocket engines. He said testing over the past year had gone very well and, though slightly behind schedule, was nearing completion.

"It all means that single-stage-to-orbit vehicles are going to be possible," he stated. "We are now within months of saying we can provide that to the world. The question is what is the world going to do about that?"

Bond said that Reaction Engines was "open to talk" about how the technology can be pushed forward. "As far as we can see we have every reason to believe this is feasible and my view is that Skylon will change the future."

Asked by a delegate about the timing for a demonstration flight, Bond said the current schedule envisaged Skylon could become operational ten years from now in 2022. He estimated development costs at $14 billion.

He explained that an important part of the company's business model was not ‘traffic to orbit' but to sell the vehicle in volume to different operators around the world.

"Many nations want their own access to space and it is important to understand this model. We are probably looking at $5 million per launch to get 15 tonnes of payload into orbit," he added.

George Nield, Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation of the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), told delegates that now was the time of a very important transition in relation to commercial space developments.

He said there were currently eight FAA licensed sites in the United States but there was interest from six new Sates which wanted to create their own space ports, an indicator of strong potential growth in the future.

William Gerstenmaier, Associate Director, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, at NASA, said it was important to the United States that commercial launch services were successful.

"The SpaceX commercial demonstration flight was a tremendous success and it is important that governments do their best to enable that sort of activity," he said. "We need to continue to look for smart ways to do this and to pass on our expertise to the commercial space sector."

He said the approach of using a cargo demonstration phase for SpaceX was a good model as it substantially reduced risks - losing cargo might be disappointing but not catastrophic as it would be in human terms.

Gerstenmaier also revealed that NASA was now taking a more relaxed approach when agreeing spacecraft specifications with commercial space companies.

"We are telling designers that they don't necessarily have to build to the same default standards as NASA has done just because that is the way it happened in the past," he said.

Silvio Sandrone, Head of Business & New Programmes Development, Astrium Space Transportation, France, remarked that you could now tell the new NASA approach was working because "you have got old dogs like us doing new tricks".

He also said that as a major aircraft and space manufacturer, his company was looking at how to transfer some of the aircraft manufacturing skills to space manufacturing.

"It is also important to leverage a wider supply base," he said. "We need to move away from qualification driven development to certification driven development."

Georges Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic, said that the FAA had recognised that for the sub-orbital industry to get off the ground, we had to go through a different regulatory process than commercial air flight.

It meant allowing passengers to take a "bigger risk" – provided that they were better informed about the risks involved.

He said countries other than the United States were now starting to engage in addressing regulations and suggested it would be a very positive move if the world was able to set up a common regulatory framework.

"We don't have a basis to fly if we don't have a vehicle that is safe," he reiterated. "Spaceflight is always going to be riskier than commercial airliners."

Simonetta di Pippo, Head of European Space Policy Observatory, Italian Space Agency (ASI), moderator of the Plenary, highlighted problems caused by increasing numbers of space flights and Air Traffic Control, saying that in the future a more integrated system would need to be developed.

The Plenary event provided a snapshot of the current political, economic and technical landscape in commercial space exploitation and the statements from panel members hinted at the question of how well humankind is preparing to embark on futuristic scenarios based on massive space commercialisation.

The above is one of a series of daily reports from the International Astronautical Congress 2012 held in Naples, Italy, written by Clive Simpson for the Paris-based International Astronautical Association (IAF) and first appearing on the IAF website

Monday, 1 October 2012

New era of cooperation

Speaking on the first day of the 63rd International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Naples, Italy, today (Monday, 1 October 2012), the heads of the world’s leading space agencies ushered in a new era of international cooperation.

The leaders of agencies from the United States, Russia, China, Japan, Europe, Canada and India all provided an overview of their current programmes as well as an insight into future plans and potential international cooperation opportunities.

Speaking before an audience of around 2,000 delegates, they were welcomed to the IAC 2012, held in Naples’ Mostra d'Oltremare, by Enrico Saggese, President of the Italian Space Agency (ASI).

Charlie Bolden, NASA Administrator, described 2012 as "an extraordinary year for NASA", capped by the successful landing of Curiosity on Mars which he described as an international venture based on a US spacecraft, with five new nations ‘landing’ on Mars as a result.

Bolden, a former Space Shuttle commander, said NASA was also eagerly anticipating the forthcoming launch on Sunday of the Falcon 9 rocket carrying the first commercial payload to the International Space Station (ISS) and heralding the start of a new commercial era for NASA.

"In general terms we are facing a fiscal crisis but at the same time trying to maintain a stable budget," he said. "As with most of us here, the ISS remains the centrepiece of our current human spaceflight endeavours."

He explained that in collaboration with its international partners, NASA was keen to increase the amount of scientific research carried out on the ISS.

Sergey Saveliev, Deputy Head of Russia’s Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), said Russia was also looking in difficult times to integrate the development of space technology to support the country’s economy.

"Space affects the economy and as such also has a powerful influence on economic development and growth," he stated.

He also indicated that on a global scale there was no large-scale problem that could not be solved in some way through international cooperation.

Saveliev stressed the importance of international cooperation based on mutual interests, citing the example of the development of new integrated space observatories alongside international partners.

He also reflected on recent Russian launch failures which he said were due to both human error and technical malfunctions, adding that steps had been taken to reduce the likelihood of any future accidents.

Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General of ESA, described the European Space Agency as enjoying its most successful phase ever.

He said the accession of Romania and Poland to ESA - taking the number of Member States to 20 - was a real indicator of this progress.

Dordain also spoke about the ISS from a European perspective, meteorology and science satellites, ATV-4 and the success of this year’s Soyuz and Vega launches from French Guiana.

He said Vega was not only a new kind of launcher but in the background represented a completely new generation of engineers.

Keiji Tachikawa, President of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), chose to highlight his agency’s recent achievements by providing very recent results from the Shizuku/AMRS-2 satellite which has confirmed depleting summer ice levels in the Arctic region.

He said JAXA would continue in the challenge to collect and provide data on climate change and global warming to help provide solutions to the crisis facing our planet.

He also spoke about the fourth JAXA astronaut currently on the ISS and said the project was a true symbol of international cooperation. Japan is also actively promoting cooperation across the Asia region in space endeavours.

Steve McLean, President of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and also a former astronaut, recalled the recent 50th anniversary of his country’s first satellite which was a catalyst for giving Canada ‘credibility’ in the worldwide space community.

Five decades later he said his country was also very proud of its latest delivery this August - the Fine Guidance Sensor for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which is being built and launched as an international project to replace Hubble.

This year Canada also extended its commitment to the ISS to 2020 and at the end of 2012 astronaut Chris Hadfield will be launched on a Soyuz rocket to become the second Canadian to make a long duration mission.

He said it was Canada’s intention to expand the use of the ISS for science and also turn it into a test bed for new technology.

One key development under this heading is the development of medical diagnosis tools, initially to be used by astronauts in orbit but later anticipated to have many applications in hospitals on Earth. "It is not quite a ‘tri-corder’ as in the Star Trek TV series but we are certainly getting close," he quipped.

Yafeng Hu, Executive Vice-Chairman, Coordination Committee for International Cooperation, China National Space Administration (CNSA), China, said his country planned 21 launches in the coming year, some of which would be helping put in place a satellite-based navigation system for people in living China and neighbouring countries.

In the coming five years, China will continue to develop its interests in human spaceflight, lunar exploration and will work on delivering a coordinated plan for the further development of space technology and science, he explained.

P.S. Veeraghavan, Council Vice-Chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), announced that his country had just completed its 100th space mission, following on from a number of successes in the past year.

He also emphasised the cooperation now beginning to take place in Asia and spoke about future missions, including the launch of the first in a series of satellites for an Indian regional satellite system.

Veeraghavan stated that India planned a Mars orbital mission that would be launched late next year.

The above is one of a series of daily reports from the International Astronautical Congress 2012 held in Naples, Italy, written by Clive Simpson for the Paris-based International Astronautical Association (IAF) and first appearing on the IAF website

Space conference record

The 63rd International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Naples, Italy, got underway on today (Monday, 1 October 2012) with a record delegate attendance of almost 4,000 people.

IAF President Berndt Feuerbacher, speaking at the morning’s Prologue meeting in Mostra d’Oltremare, the Congress venue, said he was also delighted to announce that a third of the new record attendance was comprised of young people.

Prof Feuerbacher said this was the fourth IAC to be held in Italy which is one of the leading European space nations and plays a key role in the international space arena.

The IAC, themed ‘Space science and technology for the needs of all’, is the premier international gathering of the space community and this year will see the presentation of 2,200 science and technical papers by delegates from 74 different countries at 166 technical seminars and 30 symposia.

Enrico Saggese, President of the Italian Space Agency (ASI), also joined in the welcome and offered delegates a brief summary of Italy’s significant achievements and current involvement in the world’s space programmes.

"We will continue to make a significant contribution to the exploration of space," he said whilst emphasising how important it is to maintain the continued support of young people.

Luigi De Magistris, Mayor of Naples, offered a welcome on behalf of the city. "As you think and reflect about the future of the space industry in the coming days, I hope that the city of Naples will be an inspiration to all of you," he said.

The IAC Prologue also included messages from Luigi Cesaro, President of Naples Province, and Stefano Caldoro, President of the Campania Region, along with a presentation from Maurizio Maddaloni, President of the Chamber of Commerce of Naples, and Riccardo Monti, President of the Italian Agency for the promotion and internationalisation of Italian business (ICE).

Mr Monti said future IAC’s would grow to be even larger as more and more countries participated and he urged delegates to consider carefully the decisions of the future, saying that the space industry needed a clear blueprint that would carry things forward for the coming two decades.

The Prologue meeting concluded with a short message from Francesco Profumo, Italy’s Minister of Education, University and Research, and President of ESA Ministerial Council.

Part of the annual IAC is a Space Expo exhibition which this year attracted around 50 exhibitors from space companies and organisations all over the world.

The exhibition was formally opened by the European, Japanese and Canadian Heads of Agencies, heads of leading industry corporations and Prof. Feuerbacher, along with other VIP guests.

After a short tour of some of the key exhibitors - including ESA, the Italian Space Agency, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and representatives from China, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Israel, Romania, Australia and the United States - they went on to formally open the IAF Global Networking Forum (GNF).

The GNF - with the vision to ‘meet, share and connect’ - is an evolution of the IAF Cluster Forum, transformed to further reinforce the networking and knowledge-sharing which have always defined it and bring an even wider and more global audience together.

The IAC runs throughout the week until Friday (5 October) and the Space Expo exhibition will also be open to the public between 10 am and 5 pm on Friday. 

The above is one of a series of daily reports from the International Astronautical Congress 2012 held in Naples, Italy, written by Clive Simpson for the Paris-based International Astronautical Association (IAF) and first appearing on the IAF website