Reflections from the International Astronautical Congress 2014 in Toronto - Thursday
We have started the fourth Congress day with plenary session discussion on the use of the International Space Station (ISS) and other plans for low Earth orbit. It was confirmed that ISS is the first step to travel farther from Earth. At the same time, its operation brings a number of technological advances that are reflected in the traditional areas of terrestrial life. For exapmle the development of new materials and research of flow at high speeds allow the design of new, more efficient turbine impellers and similar applications are innumerable.
Soon, on the ISS there is going to be made more experiments and tests to longer stay of human. In March 2015, there is going to begin the annual stay of one American and one Russian cosmonaut on the ISS. It is planned to connect another module that will test the technique of construction of residential premises from inflatable modules in practice. The International Space Station is also a platform for international cooperation, based on standard processes and technical solutions. That is all subject to the principle of voluntary compliance of agreed standards, e.g. the universal conection mechanism which are publicly available. Using of this principle gradually extends to an increasing number of products, not only for ISS construction but also for its operation. More and more companies and individuals understand the low Earth orbit as a unique environment for testing and exploring new opportunities and solutions based microgravity environment.
Even today we, besides the traditional activities at our booth, have visited another fellow-exhibitors. We had a very interesting conversation with staff of the French Institute of Technology F'SATI in South Africa. "Last years, this country has been expanding in space sector literally skyrocketing, mainly due to the direct financial support from the state. The Institute was founded in 1998 by the two local universities, is now educating dozens of students in the master's program in several technical fields and space systems are one of them. We have asked on the Institute's history. The story of F'SATI is an example of what we need in the Czech Republic. The South African government realized that there is the need to do somtehing with the development of high-tech industry which slowly misses the boat and capable brains move abroad. Then the government created a fund that has created tenders on several technology-oriented topics, including aerospace," explains Michal Václavík of CSO. The F'SATI institute was created thanks to the success in the tender. Slowly, step by step it expanded and now produces capable graduates of embedded electronics for space systems. From its inception, it has produced eight start-up companies, of which seven were bought by large companies due to its success. In November 2013, it was launched the first South Africa's CubeSat ZACUBE-1 from Russia assembled by students and teachers from F'SATI. Since then, the institute has also been selling its own CubeSat components, especially components for telecommunications. "We'll see how it would be achieved the intention of the new version of the National Space Plan of Czech Republic which promises to establish a Czech national space program. We are convinced that if it does not happen as soon as possible, Czech Republic will fall deep in field of space technology," says Josef Šobra of CSO.
The design and construction of small satellites, though it is difficult task, is becoming almost routine activity of every major technically oriented university. In order to succeed, it is required the suitable conditions, especially the financial ones. Professor Anthony Moffat from the University of Montreal, which is the brainchild of Canadian small satellite BRITE, shared with us the story of the first Austrian CubeSat. It was realized by students of the University of Vienna with financial support of the state. Grant, which the Viennese students gained, thanks to the initiative of one of the enlightened officer interested in nanotechnology, enabled them to stay in Canada and participate in the construction of small astrometric satellite BRITE and learned everything they needed. After returning to Vienna, the students under the supervision of their Canadian colleagues created their own CubeSat BRITE-Austria, which was in February 2013 successfully launched into orbit.
Next, we were introduced a very interesting project to create probably the most complex web encyclopedia of astronautics in the world. A very talented writer and editor Robert Godwin of CG Publishing works on it who a passionate rocker and also a founder of a record label. The Space Library, web portal in Wikipedia design, was officially published at the beginning of the Congress in Toronto and at the moment contains "only" 28 000 pages. However, it is planned to publish additional 250 000 and more are in preparation. "Mr. Godwin waits for each project to earn a little through donations and in particular the subscriptions to be able to buy larger hosting service. It is a megalomaniac work of incredible extension and anyone can expand the content of the encyclopedia. At the moment, most of the pages are devoted to the history of astronautics and it is literally day by day. There are also sections with different profiles of companies and organizations, space missions, astronauts and scientists, records of lectures and a whole list of publications and documents and brod section with audio and video records and much more. The plan is to add a profile of the Czech Space Office in the encyclopedia and maybe there will be established a certain connection with the forthcoming new space objects database Space 50, which now the CSO works on," says Josef Šobra.
Today, we continued to participate in a technical advisory committee of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF). In this context, it should be noted that some of the committees met before the actual start of the IAC. Michal Kuneš of Czech Space Office attend on Friday the IPMC workshop. In this workshop there were involved a total of 33 young professionals from 21 countries who were divided into five groups, each of which was tasked to prepare an analysis on a specific topic. IPMC workshop was an opportunity to meet team members for the first time, work on analysis, present the results and listen to recommendations from other participants. Until then they have cooperated only through Internet. "For me, the IPMC workshop was a great opportunity, because I could meet a range of inspirational young people from all over the world, from space agencies, universities and from large international companies. I work together with five other colleagues on the analysis on identifying management tools and approaches for more effective cooperation and competitiveness within organizations and between organizations. Today, we have finished the first version of the report, which should be finalised in December," Michal Kuneš summed up his experience. The IPMC committee members are also the major space agencies and large international companies that thanks to this initiative have the opportunity to see the sight of young generation.
Michal Kuneš has today experienced a really tough day and has participated in the meetings of other committees IAF, specifically SEOC and WD-YPP. The first one deals with education, the secod with activities for young professionals. "Both committees are very active and have a whole range of exciting activities for young people here in Toronto. But it is sad that there are not involved any young people of Czech universities or companies in the Congress. The same is unfortunately true also for the previous congresses. Individuals with whom we met previously, represented foreign universities and companies that had sent them. I realize that it is not easy nor cheap to send young people abroad to Congress, but I am sure that this investment would return in the future as the experience and contacts made here are unique and very valuable. That is why I discussed yesterdy along with colleagues from the Space Generation Advisory Council the ways we could change it and how to support Czech participation of students and young professionals," concludes optimistically Michal Kuneš.