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CSST at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC)

By October 16, 2018March 20th, 2019No Comments

The New Zealand booth at IAC 2018 in Bremen, Germany.

Last year, soon after CSST was founded, the first few staff members attended the 68th International Astronautical Congress  (IAC) which was held in Adelaide. This year’s IAC was a bit further afield, the host city being Bremen in northern Germany. At the invitation of the New Zealand Space Agency (NZSA), CSST was again represented, though by only one person this time, Dr Duncan Steel.

IAC is the main annual gathering of the worldwide space industry, with all the major space agencies and aerospace concerns being in attendance. Also represented are many smaller companies and niche market operators, such as those manufacturing specific electronic components for cubesats, thrusters for satellite station-keeping, or improved GPS receivers ready for the new constellations able to deliver ever-better navigational positions.

The global space industry is now reckoned to turn over more than a trillion dollars a year, and the figure is growing annually by over ten per cent. These are boom times for New Space, with an ever-increasing fraction of the activity involving commercial opportunities rather than the governmental space agencies which have been the main spenders since the Space Age began sixty years ago.

Capitalising on this rapidly-expanding industry is Aotearoa New Zealand, with the national booth at the IAC stating good and large: New Space – New Zealand.

Team NZ consisted of a dozen people, half from the NZSA but also representatives from the universities of Auckland and Canterbury, Venture Southland, LeoLabs (a US company soon to install a space-tracking radar in Central Otago), and of course CSST.

What are the returns from travelling around the world to attend?

In all there were 6,400 professionals visiting IAC for the talks and presentations on the science, technology and engineering of space. At least another thousand were there to staff the huge exhibition hall.

On the Wednesday in the middle of the IAC – October 3rd, German Unity (reunification) Day and so a public holiday – the doors were thrown open for the people of Bremen to take a look at all the space hardware and capabilities on display, and 30,000 locals took advantage of that opportunity.

We were able to talk with hundreds of people about the special reasons for collaborating with NZ on space activities: our geographical location (southern hemisphere, nothing eastwards until South America), our active geology, our well-studied environment and agriculture, our small-scale government and thus ability to move quickly, our relatively small land area (but still similar in size to the UK, Italy or Poland) but huge oceanic area of responsibility, and other attractive things about NZ that we tend to forget because we live here.

After five days of what felt like non-stop talking, IAC was over, at least until next October 2019 when Washington DC is the venue for the 70th such event.