Plenary Programme

The IAC Plenary Programme features an exciting selection of high-level Plenary Sessions, Highlight Lectures and Late-breaking News events.

Highlight Lectures


Highlight Lecture 1: The International Rosetta Mission – First Historical Rendezvous and Landing on a Comet

Tuesday 13, 17:45 – 18:45
Location: Ussishkin Auditorium

The Rosetta international mission is a cornerstone of the ESA scientific programme which, for the first time in history of spaceflight, achieved a rendezvous with a comet nucleus and delivered a lander module, Philae, onto its surface.

The mission realization required almost 30 years since its initial conception. The interplanetary cruise took more than 10 years. The target, comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko, was reached in August 2014.

The lecture will emphasize on the operational challenges of the long mission, of flying Rosetta at short distances from an active comet nucleus of 2 km radius, and of the delivery and operations the Philae lander. Latest status of both Lander and Orbiter will be presented.



Mr. Paolo Ferri

Head, ESA Mission Operations

Former Rosetta Flight Director


Mr. Stephan Ulamec

Philae Project Manager, DLR

Highlight Lecture 2: Sustaining the Space Environment: The State of Space Situational Awareness, Conjunction Warning and Collision

Wednesday 14, 17:45 – 18:45
Location: Ussishkin Auditorium

Sustaining a productive near Earth space environment is critical. As the number of satellites in low and geosynchronous Earth orbits increases, collisions become more likely. Avoiding collisions has been a priority for two decades, but there has not been much progress. Space situational awareness has actually declined in the past few years. The quality of orbit data, particularly debris orbits, is neither sufficient nor timely. Fortunately, collisions are not likely, although the consequences might be severe.

This presentation will assess the capabilities of the world’s space situational resources. One of the most significant impediments is the diversity of conjunction assessment and collision warning among stakeholders. Each must be able to understand and employ data provided by others. International Standards and best practices provide the environment for collaboration and improvement. Verifiable, measureable, and enforceable guidelines, codes of conduct, treaties, and laws are required. Many proposed and implemented thus far do not satisfy these criteria.

The first segment of this lecture will present all capabilities accessible to international stakeholders. These capabilities are much more than locations and fields of view or fields of regard.

The second segment will examine the capabilities to conduct actionable surveillance. Surveillance is perceiving events that matter, not looking everywhere for anything. We must consider relationships among assets to be protected, threats to those assets, and actions that might mitigate those threats.

The third segment will expose for the non-expert major approaches to conjunction assessment and collision avoidance as well as the uncertainties and estimated effectiveness. Only satellite owners and operators can judge whether to suffer a small, quantified risk or maneuver at the risk of revenue or important data. The tradeoffs will be presented for realistic situations.

Finally, the possibility of guidelines, codes of conduct, treaties, and laws to facilitate sustainability will be discussed.

David Finkleman

Dr. David Finkleman


Highlight Lecture 3: Orion’s exploration Flight Test-1 – Taking Human Spaceflight Beyond LEO for the Future of Mankind

Thursday 15, 17:45 – 18:45
Location: Ussishkin Auditorium

Orion’s first flight test last December took the spacecraft to an altitude of 3600 miles, farther than any human spacecraft has been in 42 years. The nearly flawless flight tested the heat shield, separation systems, launch and entry environments, avionics, and critical re-entry systems. The challenges, problems and successes of this difficult mission, as well as the next steps in taking humans beyond Low Earth Orbit, will be explained by two top Program Managers from NASA and Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor.

Carlo Mirra

Carlo Mirra

Senior Manager

Head of Mission/Increment Integration

Airbus Defence and Space


William Gerstenmaier

William Gerstenmaier

Associate Administrator

Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate


W. Michael Hawes

W. Michael Hawes

Vice President and Orion Program Manager

Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company

Plenary Events


To have more information on the different plenaries and speakers, please click on the respective title


Plenary 1: Heads of Agency

Monday 12, 13:30 – 15:00
Location: Ussishkin Auditorium

The Heads of Agencies plenary event will bring together the leaders of major space agencies worldwide. Following the structure of previous years, this year’s Heads of Agencies Plenary will begin with an introductory presentation on latest developments, followed by a discussion on specific topics as well as an interactive Q&A session with the audience.

Plenary 2: Remote Superspectral and HyperSpectral Sensing From Space

Monday 12, 18:15 – 19:30
Location: Ussishkin Auditorium

Plenary 3: Space Transportation Capabilities and Future Directions to enable Commercial, Scientific, and Human expansion into space

Tuesday 13, 08:30 – 09:30
Location: Ussishkin Auditorium

This plenary session is dedicated to a comprehensive discussion of the current state and future directions of launch systems. We are in the midst of substantial change in the paradigms of how humans and hardware get to space – from technical, programmatic, and commercial perspectives. In the technical realm, for example, we are now seeing the first-attempts to re-land booster rockets gently for re-use of all or large parts of the hardware. In programmatic areas, we are seeing NASA rely on commercial contracts to deliver crew and cargo, and ESA moving forward with the Ariane-6. While telecommunications satellites for GEO still offer commercial opportunities for launch vehicle companies, one important trend has been in the direction of smaller satellites – microsats and nanosats – and hosted payloads, which may influence the direction, size, and frequency of future launches. This plenary will provide a window into how many of the major actors in the Space Transportation arena are adjusting to – or creating – many of these changes which are coming rapidly, and are fundamentally changing our access to LEO and beyond.

Plenary 4: Next Generation Plenary: International Space Station as the Gateway for Humankind’s Future in Space and on Earth

Tuesday 13, 13:30 – 14:30
Location: Ussishkin Auditorium

This plenary highlights the active work on the International Space Station (ISS) of students and young professionals who were competitively selected through YouTube auditions. These Next Generation panellists will discuss the reasons for performing research in space vs. on Earth and will discuss results and benefits of their research – not only for deep-space exploration but also for improving life on Earth. This plenary examines new research that will take firm hold in a future when the panellists will be in the prime of their careers, executing the decisions of the day and ultimately driving the space community.

Plenary 5: Small Satellites – Big opportunities in the new age

Wednesday 14, 08:30 – 09:30
Location: Ussishkin Auditorium

Nano satellites, privately owned satellites constellations, start-ups companies for new launchers, space tourism, are all signs of a revolution coming onto the conservative space industry and space organizations worldwide. The motto of the revolution is; “an affordable space” – space which is available to everyone, any time, and all of the time. The proposed sessions will present elaborately the ways of the start-up nation to an affordable space and space use, in research, technology, “conventional space industry” and SME`s
Thanks to rideshares and ISS deployment, small satellites have already demonstrated functionality in space. Now, a new generation of companies are turning to large constellations of inexpensive small satellites into global businesses, thanks to more flexible and affordable launch options that cater specifically to smaller satellites. In this plenary session, CEOs and other senior representatives from companies that are flying or building small satellites (250 kg or less) discuss the technologies, business plans, and mission types that impact their industry sector.

The topics to be discussed thus reflect the interdisciplinary nature of the factors to be considered in planning for the future growth of small satellite activities. There will also be an input to the Plenary presenting the main findings from the IAA/IISL Scientific-Legal Roundtable during the Congress, dealing with “Universities in Space”. The advent of small satellites, if properly regulated, can greatly contribute to the realisation of one of the cardinal principles of the peaceful uses of outer space as included in article I of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, namely that space activities must be for the benefit and in the interests of all states.

Plenary 6: Fifty Years of Spacewalking – The Ultimate Human Space Adventure

Thursday 15, 08:30 – 09:30
Location: Ussishkin Auditorium

Since the first Spacewalk by Alexey Leonov in 1965, people have left the confines of a spacecraft to walk in space more than 700 times. This ultimate human space experience of turning a human into a spaceship has required numerous technical achievements to overcome the dangers. Spacewalkers have worked for thousands of hours to build spaceships and save missions. Beyond achieving mission objectives, they have had a profound societal impact; millions of images of people in spacesuits can be found in every walk of life today. The spacewalkers will discuss their personal reactions to this adventure, as well as the future role of spacewalking in human exploration.

Plenary 7: The Moon – a continent and a gateway for our future

Thursday 15, 13:30 – 14:30
Location: Ussishkin Auditorium

The panel will review discoveries and key results from recent lunar missions, and the plans for upcoming lunar exploration. They will discuss how this serves as a gateway for scientific studies, technical validation and development, the next generation of landers, buildup of facilities in a lunar robotic village, the use of lunar resources, and the Moon as a platform for biological studies and observation of the cosmos, and sustainable human activities. They will address also the social, education, peaceful inspirational and economical values of lunar exploration for humankind. Also technologies, life support systems and human operations can be validated on the Moon, as a gateway to Mars and other solar system destinations.

The panel will discuss possible visions, the main events in the next International Lunar Decade, and roadmaps towards settlements, sustainable international lunar bases and a Moon global village on our 8th continent.

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