Published on December 21, 2020

IAF’s Season’s Greetings

A message from the IAF President, Pascale Ehrenfreund

On behalf of the International Astronautical Federation,

I would like to share a few thoughts with you as the year 2020 comes to an end. 2020 has been a truly challenging year as well as an incredible journey. For the Federation, the Bureau, the Secretariat, and for the entire IAF community worldwide. During these unprecedented times the IAF is more committed than ever to support the global space dialogue and make the space sector more resilient.

The year started with the participation to the 12th European Space Conference in Brussels on 21st of January 2020. The IAF hosted a networking lunch in partnership with the French Space Agency, CNES which allowed promoting the Federation to key decision makers in Europe. The conference converged on the topic “New Decade, Global Ambition: Growth, Climate, Security and Defence”, a theme in line with the IAF Global Advocacy Agenda 2019-2022.

Then, unfortunately the COVID-19 pandemic developed and all over the world people were forced to stay at home, cancel their travels and participate in the fight against COVID-19 by maintaining social distance. This was the reason why we took the difficult decision to cancel the IAF Spring Meetings 2020 and hold it in a 100% virtual format instead. 40 Meetings of committees, IPC, the Bureau etc. and more than 400 people met online, confirming that the IAF is and always will be the network platform for the engaged and enthusiastic space community worldwide.

After the decision to postpone the IAC 2020 in Dubai to 2021 and the IAC 2021 in Paris to 2022, we worked strenuously with the Bureau and the Secretariat to create an IAF event in 2020 that could reach everyone, everywhere. We decided to organize the 71st International Astronautical Congress, IAC 2020, as a CyberSpace Edition and offer this congress without registration fee to the global space community. For three days, from 12th to 15th October 2020, space experts from all over the world had the opportunity to attend more than 20 live sessions, including 3 plenaries, 2 highlight lectures, 5 IAF Global Networking Forums, and 2 Special Sessions. Thanks to the amazing response from the IAF community, we created a Technical Presentation Gallery which included more than 1.300 video lectures, and a virtual exhibition with more than 30 booths, accessible 24-hours a day. The IAC 2020 – The CyberSpace Edition will leave a remarkable legacy. I am happy to report that more than 13.600 registered participants from 135 countries have joined the IAC 2020 making it a great success.

As part of the current IAF Space Advocacy Agenda, we also launched a new initiative: the “IAF Space Economic Platform – Bringing Space Down to Earth/Bringing Earth Up to Space”. Through this platform, the IAF aims to propel and support the new space economy by integrating new space actors, entrepreneurs, non-space industry and organizations through new dedicated activities and events. More details can be found here.

Another recent IAF initiative is the launch of the IAF Launchpad Mentorship Programme, that aims to facilitate career development and leadership capabilities of the mentee, and provides a platform for enhanced communication between the various generations represented within the IAF community. More details can be found here.

Moreover, I am very glad to inform you that 19 new IAF members were approved in our latest IAF General Assembly (held in a virtual format), bringing the total number of IAF members to 407 from 71 countries, and further enlarging our broad network. IAF continues thus to be the largest space advocacy network in the world and I want to thank all of you for your efforts. The General Assembly also ratified the creation of two new Technical Committees: the IAF Committee on Space Habitats and the IAF Space Traffic Management Committee. We have thus today 46 IAF Committees covering the complete spectrum of space activities.

We are also incredibly proud of the official launch of the IAF Digital Library, the world’s largest online space repository with over 50.000 digital papers covering 70 years of space achievements and international cooperation since the inaugural International Astronautical Congress which took place in 1950. The IAF Digital Library aims to be a destination where knowledge goes beyond economic and geographic barriers to reach everyone, extending the boundaries of the past, envisioning the future and establishing itself as an infinite source of information, innovation, and inspiration for the benefit of the space community. Please visit the IAF Digital Library here.

Bureau members and myself are promoting IAF activities regularly at many fora and conferences and our IAF GNF Space Conversation Series highlights biweekly interesting topics chosen by our IAF members. More details can be found here.

A new year is ahead of us. A particularly important year because 2021 will mark the 70th anniversary of the Federation. For the past seven decades, the IAF has stood the test of time by providing platforms for the global space community to meet, share and connect. With this philosophy the IAF expanded year after year its memberships and portfolio. It is an anniversary that makes us extremely proud and grateful to be part of the remarkable space sector that plays an ever-increasing role in our daily lives.

For 2021, our activities will progress throughout the year and we would like to invite you already to attend and be involved in our main events that will be:

  • The IAF Spring Meetings 2021: the IAF is pleased to invite you to the Spring Meetings 2021. Due to the on-going pandemic and knowing that travelling to Paris may still be difficult and risky for many of us, we took the decision of holding this edition again in a 100% virtual format, from 23 – 25 March 2021. We are planning to meet again, in person, in 2022, please save the date for the IAF Spring Meetings 2022: from 22 – 24 March 2022 in New CAP Conference Centre, in Paris, France.
  • The Global Space Exploration Conference, GLEX 2021, co-organized with State Space Corporation “Roscosmos”, will be held in St. Petersburg, Russia, from 14 – 18 of June 2021 and will consist of a technical programme, featured keynote speakers, plenary events and GNF sessions. GLEX 2021 will offer an ideal platform for discussion on recent results, current challenges and innovative solutions and it will contain several opportunities to learn about how space exploration investments provide benefits as well as discuss how those benefits can be increased through thoughtful planning and cooperation. We hope you will be able to join us for this exciting event. More details can be found here.
  • The 72nd International Astronautical Congress, IAC 2021, will be hosted by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center – MBRSC, and it will take place in Dubai, UAE, from 25 – 29 October 2021. For the very first time, the IAC will open its doors to the global space community in the United Arab Emirates, the first Arab country to host the IAC since its establishment in 1950. With the theme “Inspire, Innovate & Discover for the Benefit of Humankind”, the IAC 2021 looks forward to making a contribution to humanity and to science by strengthening and enhancing cooperation between all countries in the space sector. The IAC is not only a Congress, but a gathering of the international space community that, every year, contributes to and shapes a different and exciting programme. There are numerous different ways that you can actively be part of the congress; for detailed information, please consult our website and check our “How to actively engage in the IAC” guide. We look forward to your participation!

We are living in unprecedented times and I can only stress the significance of space technologies such as remote sensing applications, satellite and communications technology, artificial intelligence, and telemedicine when addressing a global health crisis such as the one we are currently facing.

We are privileged to be together as a Federation and we will continue reaching out to connect the global space community. Thank you for your engagement, your support, and your trust. I hope that you and those around you are and remain safe.

I wish you and your loved ones peace, resiliency and all the best for 2021 during this challenging time. I look forward to welcoming you to the 2021 IAF meetings and the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Federation in December 2021.

With my very best personal regards,
Prof. Pascale Ehrenfreund


President, President of Committee on Space Research (COSPAR)