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International Astronautical Congress starts with big numbers

Space Industry

The International Astronautical Congress begins today with a record number of delegates making the trip to Adelaide, South Australia.

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More than 4200 people have registered to attend the week-long conference, a number that organisers believe will steadily increase as the congress progresses.

Michael Davis, the chair of the Space Industry Association of Australia and a key organiser of the congress, said the record numbers didn’t include the many students who would tour the exhibitions during the week to be inspired to study science.

“On top of the registered delegates we have 700 school children coming in for half a day each to do hands on stuff around the exhibition,” he said.

Davis said he was most looking forward to all the business that would be done at the congress.

“The reason that most people working at space agencies and space companies come here is that they can’t afford not to.”

Martin Hamilton-Smith, the South Australian minister for defence industries who last week had his portfolio expanded to include space, is banking on the fact that delegates are in Australia to do business.

Last week Hamilton-Smith announced the establishment of a space industry centre to grow the sector in South Australia.

The state has had to go it alone as the Australian federal government has not committed to forming a national space agency until the completion of a task force report in March 2018.

Hamilton-Smith used the start of the IAC to announce that the new South Australian Space Industry Centre would administer an AU$4 million dollar fund over four years to promote space skills training scholarships, space incubation services and a space accelerator program for established companies.

“A global call for proposals from organisations to run the space accelerator program will open in October,” he said.

International Astronautical Federation President Jean-Yves Le Gall said the record number of delegates reflected the excellent program being offered in Adelaide.

He said of the eight plenary session, three highlight lectures and 200 technical sessions to be presented, a common theme would be the journey to Mars. The two late breaking news sessions include Mars travel and Elon Musk revealing his latest timelines.

“After the space station missions, the next huge international cooperation in space is the journey to Mars,” said Le Gall.

He said Australia must follow all other space nations and establish a space agency.

“The congress is the right time for Australia to implement an agency to provide huge support to the Australian space industry.”

Le Gall said the record number of delegates promised to make the congress one of the best ever held.

“Some major highlights of the IAC 2017 are Charles Bolden’s lecture on how to grow opportunities for International Cooperation in Science and Astronautics, Bill Nye’s talk on the inspiring story of LightSail®, a solar sailing spacecraft that became a global phenomenon and, of course, Elon Musk’s update on his plans to go to Mars,” Le Gall said.

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