Dr. Ozan Kara
Senior Engineer DeltaV Space Technologies Inc.
The International Astronautical Congress (IAC), one of the world's leading organizations, was held in Dubai on October 25-29, 2021. Organized for the 72nd time by the International Astronautical Federation, the congress was held for the first time in the United Arab Emirates, the first Arab country hosted the IAC since its establishment in 1950. Nearly 6500 participants from 110 countries attended the event, hosted by the United Arab Emirates Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC).
In the event held under the theme of “Inspire, Innovate & Discover for the Benefit of Humankind”, more than 1400 speakers made academic presentations on 182 different technical subjects. Academic presentations covered many exciting topics such as space propulsion, orbital calculations, satellite design, Moon and Mars colonization, space economy and social entrepreneurship.
In addition, there were booths of 90 different companies at IAC 2021. Panels, trainings, collaborations and forums were held with the participation of senior executives of leading organizations and companies in the space industry such as NASA, ESA, Boeing, Airbus, Lockheed Martin. The introductions of newly established companies, presentations of young professionals and students also motivated the future generations.
A large space was allocated to the Turkish Space Agency (TUA) at IAC 2021, taking place at the Dubai Trade Center. TUA was accompanied by TUBITAK Space Technologies Research Institute, Gokmen Aerospace and Aviation Training Center (GUHEM), DeltaV Space Technologies Inc. and Saha Istanbul.
TUA held more than 34 bilateral meetings between states and organizations. In addition to the relevant space agencies of Russia, Japan, the United Kingdom and Azerbaijan, several meetings were held with international companies that have recently attracted attention with their activities on space, such as SpaceX and Blue Origin. During the congress, a memorandum of cooperation was signed with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and a goodwill agreement was signed with the Mexican Space Agency. Moreover, at the IAF General Assembly held during the congress, TUA's official membership of the IAF has been registered.
DeltaV Space Technologies, on the other hand, introduced its probe rocket at the booth of TUA. Developed in Turkey using hybrid rocket (solid fuel and liquid oxidizer) technology, the rocket had exceeded 100 km speed in 2021 and performed a suborbital flight. DeltaV uses paraffin as fuel in its rocket, which conducted its historical flight. It uses high performance (cryogenic phase) liquid oxygen (LOX) as the oxidizer. The paraffin-based fuel used in the solid phase, on the other hand, combines with liquid oxygen to provide cost-effective and high-performance propulsion. In the future, this technology will also be used in orbital flights and propulsion systems in the space environment. DeltaV engineers develop cryogenic valves, regulators, ignition systems, composite pressurization tanks, turbopumps and many more flight systems as part of this technology. IAC 2021 has been an amazing platform for introducing these systems to the world. Hybrid rocket system is planned to be used in the Moon Program, which is planned to be carried out under the leadership of the Turkish Space Agency. Within this frame, the systems to be developed by DeltaV will provide high added value for Turkey.
Like many space enthusiasts, I attended the IAC and had the opportunity to represent Turkey for the 8th time. I was selected as a delegate to the Young Professionals workshop for the first time in 2012. Afterwards, I took part in many technical committees. I am still active in space education and outreach, space propulsion, knowledge management and workforce development committees. As per my observations, IAC 2021 was more modest than those held prior to the pandemic. Compared to previous congresses, the number of participants was small. The greatest advantage of this is that everyone was able to focus easily on the subject they were interested in. Because many events take place at the same time during the congress, for example while there is a panel of astronauts at one hand, academic presentations and trainings take place on the other hand.
The most significant aspect of the IAC 2021 congress is that it took place for the first time in a United Arab Emirates country. Accordingly, the activities of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC) came to the fore. MBRSC announced cooperation agreements with Thales Alenia Space, Airbus, SpaceX, UNOOSA (United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs) and ESA (European Space Agency). Also, a live broadcast was held with the United Arab Emirates CrewONE analog mission. This analog mission is part of 8-month-long mission taking place in Russia and simulates space-like conditions.
Commercial space companies also announced important progresses at the International Astronautical Congress. Blue Origin, Boeing and Sierra Space announced that they will build a commercial space station called "Orbital Reef". Additionally, Lockheed Martin and Nanoracks announced that they will work on the space station called "Starlab". The Polish Space Agency signed a cooperation agreement with NASA for the Artemis project. The Artemis project is NASA's "Manned Return to the Moon" project by 2025.
The most outstanding panel in the congress was the “Head of Agencies” event. In the panel attended by the space agency presidents/directors of the European countries, Canada, Japan, the US, Russia, India and China, the space roadmaps of each country were discussed.
Another remarkable panel of IAC 2021 was the "Heads of Emerging Agencies" event, attended by the space agencies of developing countries. The heads of space agencies of Azerbaijan, Brazil, South Africa, Colombia and Turkey discussed the impact of their countries' socio-economic conditions on new technologies, their level of technological maturity and new cooperation ideas. Accordingly, IAC 2021 Congress has become an effective platform for developing countries.
One of the most significant missions in the space industry in 2020 was the MARS 2020 project, which brought the Perseverance and Ingenuity vehicles to the Red Planet. The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover landed in Jezero Crater on February 18, 2021. The largest and most capable robotic system in human history will search for evidence of past microbial life, test new technologies including a method of generating oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, and collect several dozen samples for future return to Earth. Other tasks include characterizing weather, dust and other potential environmental challenges that could affect future astronauts who will live and work on Mars. As part of the Mars 2020 mission, Ingenuity helicopter made the first ever flight over the Martian surface. Thus, Ingenuity proved the viability of powered flight even in the thin atmosphere of another planet.
During IAC 2021, an important panel was held for Mars 2020 with the participation of NASA and ESA mission managers. They presented their studies specifically for bringing the samples to be collected from the surface of Mars to Earth. NASA and the European Space Agency have committed to conclude this brave mission by the early 2030s.
When we talk about an astronautical congress, the first thing that comes to mind is the "astronauts". Certainly, astronauts and cosmonauts gathered at this five-day congress as well. Especially the astronauts from the United Arab Emirates attracted great attention. Astronauts met with the participants at the "Expedition 60/61 Reunion" panel. In this panel, all nine (9) crew members who were part of Expedition 60/61 to the International Space Station (ISS) were introduced for the first time. Crew members gathered at IAC 2021 in Dubai to share their experience, knowledge, scientific mission and achievements. What distinguishes this team from other space station crews are as follows:
The participation of Hazzaa Al Mansoori, the first UAE Astronaut, in the International Space Station. Hazzaa Al Mansoori’s launch of for the ISS was a milestone in the UAE's space program and an important breakthrough in the development of the Manned Space Flight Program. Achieving the UAE's first mission to the ISS was a successful example of international cooperation among all space agencies.
Successful conduct of the first “All-Woman Spacewalk” by NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch. This achievement inspired all women around the world and proved that they can achieve their dreams and reach greater heights with hard work and dedication.
Astronaut Christina Koch broke the record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman.
The International Space Station (ISS) has 9 members for the first time since the departure of the Soyuz TMA-16M in September 2015.
The most spacewalks in the history of the ISS; 9 times!
This panel was important in many ways: International cooperation in Manned Space Flights, Capacity Building for Manned Space Flights in Developing Countries, Women's Role and Significant Contributions in Space, Bringing together and inspiring young people in STEM (Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics), Outcomes of the First UAE Manned Space Flight and UAE effect over the region.
Space studies are inspiring for humanity. It requires social responsibility among space industry actors to maximize the benefits of space for all countries. Social responsibility in space industry ensures the fair and sustainable implementation of innovations. In IAC 2021, social responsibility projects consisting of space studies were discussed through various panels consisting of selected young professionals and students.
Covid-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on humanity in different aspects. But the excitement of space exploration always remains high. In summary, we will see more robotic technologies developed for Moon and Mars exploration in the upcoming years. Global health studies are supported by earth observation satellites. The number of commercial space companies is increasing. Cost-effective rocket systems will affordably bring us to space. High-performance and cost-effective systems are being developed with new fuels and oxidizers. The global economy is progressing in a more balanced way with the developing technology. In view of that, the roles of young people in science and engineering will enable us to develop cost-effective projects in the future. This will make space exploration sustainable. Developing countries' access to space will also increase. Space education will develop with mobile applications and virtual reality applications. With virtual reality and "gamification" systems, we can make the surface of Mars accessible even for kids. By simulating the Martian atmosphere and surface, we can even prevent some accidents before we go. As can be seen from these examples, space exploration will be a struggle to turn imagination into reality for future generations. A struggle worth the risks!
IAC 2021, on the other hand, has inspired new generations in several ways and kept cooperation in the space industry alive. The international astronautical congress will take place in Paris, Baku and Milan in the following years and will unquestionably play a significant role for global cooperation