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Reflection on IAC 2014

Czech Space Office has returned from the 65th International Astronautical Congress in Toronto

Prague, October 7th, 2014 – Czech Space Office (CSO) has successfully completed its participation at the 65th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Toronto. The time at the Cogress the CSO devoted to promoting Czech aerospace, gathering new ideas and compaction of both, relations alredy existing and the new ones. CSO has also been involved in the activities of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) of which the CSO director serves as vicepresident. At the Congress he was re-elected for another election season.

65th Congress of the IAC took place from 29th September to 3rd October in Toronto, Canada. IAC is an annually world's largest conference on space, regularly visited by 3500 experts of related professions. Besides them, the Congress attended also by students, schoolchildren and the last day by the general public.

The main topics discussed this year have included landing of module of European probe Rosetta on Churyomov Gerasimenko comet, the use of satellites for management of the environment, such as finding new sources of potable water or glaciers melting and vision of further use of low-Earth orbit as an intermediate step for human space flights to the solar system after the decommissioning of the International Space Station. From the conceptual perspective the analyzed themes have been the suitable financing models of space such as partnership of public and private sector, ways to engage a new group of users and investors and increasingly topical commercial flights into space. 

This year, at the Congress exhibition presented their products and services 148 exhibitors mainly from industry, space agencies and universities, which is almost one half more than in the previous year. "Czech Space Office, at its booth presented a number of exhibits illustrating the capability of Czech companies, research institutes and universities. However, the interest of the Czech workplaces could be greater. At this moment, there are around four dozens of workplaces in the Czech Republic with direct experience in ESA space projects and it is a pity that the workplaces don´t use the offer of CSO more actively", says Josef Šobra of CSO. 

At the Congress, the CSO played also a role of an IAF member. This role included the participation in the General Assembly where the CSO  director Jan Kolář has been re-elected for Vice President for the next season, a meeting of several committees focusing on knowledge management, international project management in space, education and activities for young professionals. Activities of the last two mentioned areas provide a great platform for networking, both within the young generation, and within the community of experienced professionals.

"Both committees are very active and in Toronto, there have been held a number of exciting activities for young people. As an example we can mention training of presentation skills in English, events for young professionals focused on networking, technical sections and competitions for students or plenary session where the young scientists and engineers presented their research. However, it is sad that Congress have not attended any young people from Czech universities or companies. I understand that it is not easy nor cheap, but I'm sure that this investment would return in the future because of the unique experience gained and the contacts. It can definitely contribute to a new partnership, project or other opportunity in the space sector. At booths of the Congress exhibition, there presented space agencies, international companies and universities with the aim to target young people and seek their future employees or students,"  says Michal Kuneš who is actively involved in both committees.

The offer at the CSO booth also included the promotional materials of American XCOR Aerospace company, of which the CSO signed an exclusive agreement last year and became an authorized partner to ensure the preparation of experiments for the suborbital rocket plane Lynx. Its first specimen Lynx Mark-I is currently assembled in the Mojave Desert, and the first test flight is expected next year. "The fourth day of the Congress, we began negotiations with the representative of the XCOR company on two future projects. I hope that our effort to keep up with the global trend of development of commercial spaceflight will help Czech workplaces and the Czech Republic as a whole," says Michal Václavík who is responsible for the CSO partnership with XCOR Aerospace.

During the week, the CSO workers have also visited several booths of universities and start-ups that are focused on building of small satellites and CubeSats. The increased interest of CSO in this area has been caused by awarness that the design and construction of small satellites, though it is difficult, is becoming almost routine activity of every major technically oriented university. In order to succeed in this area, it is required suitable conditions, particularly the financial ones. Examples of universities where such activity is booming are countless. A suitable example is the French Institute of Technology F'SATI in South Africa which, due to well-targeted state support, have already produced eight start-up companies from the graduates and the launch of the first South African cubesat ZACUBE-1 which was built by the students and teachers. The Institute is currently also engaged in selling its own cubesat components, especially components for telecommunications.

Another example that, thanks to financial support, it can be produced small satellites by only a few people, is an Italian company GAUSS (Group of Astrodynamics for Use in Space Systems). It is consiting of only three graduates of the University of Rome and their professor and they have already managed to build and launch 6 small satellites.

These stories are illustrative examples of what we need in the Czech Republic. "Currently, in the Czech Republic we see how we are missing the boat in the area of ​​small satellites. There are capable individuals and teams, but the support from the state is so far zero"  Josef Šobra from CSO concludes the situation.

In 2015, the IAC Congress will be held in Jerusalem of Israel and the Czech Space Office will start to prepare for it early next year. All interested parties who would like to present and promote their activities at the IAC next year, may already contact the CSO.