International Astronautical Congress 2022 Focuses On Moon Missions, Discusses Saudi Arabia’s Aim To Send Female Astronaut To Space

The 2022 International Astronautical Congress (IAC) held at the Paris Convention Centre, France, concluded on September 22. The world’s largest space congress witnessed the participation of global space agencies and their heads, including those of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), European Space Agency (ESA), Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Officials from the China National Space Administration (CNSA) and the State Space Agency of Ukraine also attended the IAC 2022. Certain countries including Turkey and Saudi Arabia signed Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) with Houston-based aerospace firm Axiom Space to launch astronauts from their countries into space. 

The International Astronautical Federation (IAF), the organiser of the world’s premiere space event, gathered more than 9,300 delegates from 110 countries on the occasion of the 73rd International Astronautical Congress. 

The IAC 2022 successfully met the “responsible event” standards and received its International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certification. 

Here is a list of announcements made and targets set at the IAC 2022: 

The heads of the world’s major space agencies — NASA, ESA, CSA, JAXA, and ISRO presented their future plans at the IAC 2022, and spoke about the challenges that could affect space and humanity.

DART Mission, ISS Program

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson mentioned the DART mission and said that a spacecraft will crash into a small asteroid revolving around a larger asteroid, reported. 

Nelson stated that NASA’s aim is to see if the DART mission impact can move the trajectory of the asteroid a bit. If the mission is successful, it will pave the way for future missions that could project Earth from potential killer asteroids. 

Russia was not present at the IAC 2022. Nelson said that the cooperation in space between the United States and Russia is still proceeding, and that both are partners in the International Space Station (ISS) program.

Nelson said NASA is confident that Russia will cooperate in deorbiting the ISS at the end of the decade, the National News reported. 

“Despite the political troubles on terra firma you still see that professional relationship working in the civilian space arena,” the NASA Chief was quoted as saying in a report by

“We are no longer the Apollo generation. We are the Artemis generation. We will go to the Moon, to Mars, and we will come back,” Nelson said at the IAC 2022.

ESA’s Future Missions

Josef Aschbacher, Director General of the ESA, said that the space agency’s big missions in the near future include the launch of the JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (JUICE) in the second quarter of 2023. The first launch of Ariane 6, a European expendable launch system currently under development, is expected nead year. 

Aschbacher also said that the ESA is looking to select a handful from 23,000 applicants to be the space agency’s next astronauts. 

Canada’s WildFireSat Mission, Canadarm 3

The President of the CSA, Lisa Campbell, spoke about the challenges Canada suffers from. These include the fact that 7,500 wildfires erupt in Canada each year. These wildfires burn over 2.5 million hectares of forests. She said that the CSA, in response to this, is developing the WildFireSat mission which will help increase Canada’s ability to monitor wildfires. 

Campbell added that space technology is advancing quickly by combining a broad range of Artificial Intelligence (AI) computing. This means “we can generate infinite solutions to many of the challenges we face,” she said, according to the report.

Campbell also said that Canada is working on Canadarm3 as part of the Lunar Gateway project and will send an astronaut on the Artemis II crewed lunar flyby mission. She said that the astronaut will be selected in the coming months. 

Campbell also said that in the coming weeks, the CSA will announce the winning proposal for a lunar south pole rover for a 2026 mission. 

JAXA’s MMX Mission

The President of the JAXA, Hiroshi Yamakawa, said that Japan is working on numerous exploration projects. These include the Mars Moon eXploration (MMX) mission, which aims to launch a robotic space probe in 2024 to bring back the first samples from Mars’ largest moon, Phobos. The space probe will be a human-driven, pressurised lunar rover. 

JAXA and its industry partners are set to conduct the test flight of the new H3 rocket, an expendable launch system in development in Japan. They plan to launch the H3 rocket before the end of the Japanese fiscal year, which ends March 2023. 

ISRO’s Gaganyaan Programme

At the IAC 2022, the Chairman of the ISRO, S Somanath, highlighted the Indian space agency’s plans to send astronauts into orbit, as part of the Gaganyaan Programme. He said that the human-rated launcher for Gaganyaan is ready, but the development of the Gaganyaan crew capsule and its escape system is proving more challenging, the report stated.

International Astronautical Congress 2022 Focuses On Moon Missions, Discusses Saudi Arabia's Aim To Send Female Astronaut To Space


S Somanath said that the Indian human space programme is progressing steadily, but perhaps a bit slower than how ISRO wanted. He added that the human-rated launcher is ready, but the development of the Gaganyaan crew capsule is more challenging.

The ISRO chief also said that India is seeing a great increase in space startups, including several companies building small satellites. These companies include Space Kidz India, which built a CubeSat called AzaadiSAT.

Somanath said that ISRO is happy to support and advance the work of these commercial firms. 

The vice administrator of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), Wu Yanhua, dropped out of the panel due to a scheduling conflict.

Saudi Arabia Aims To Send First Female Saudi Astronaut To Space In 2023

At the IAC 2022, Saudi Arabia announced that it aims to send the first female Saudi astronaut to space. The Saudi Space Commission (SSC) is working with Axiom Space for a human spaceflight opportunity no earlier than 2023. 

On September 22, Axiom Space and SSC announced their epoch-making partnership to fly two Saudi astronauts to space, including the first female Saudi astronaut. The country is celebrating its first national astronaut program dedicated to sending Saudi astronauts into space as a contribution to humanity’s progress, and in line with the progressive goals of the Saudi Vision 2030.

Axiom Space will collaborate with Saudi Arabia’s space agency to train Saudi astronauts for human spaceflight and prepare them to conduct meaningful scientific research in space. 

Space Activities Help Track Climate Change: French Prime Minister

At the IAC 2022, the Prime Minister of France, Élisabeth Borne, said that space exploration is needed in the fight against climate change, and space activities help to track climate change and extreme weather patterns. 

She stated that space helps in our daily lives, including communication, navigation and planetary studies, a report by The National said. 

Borne said the mission now is to put space at the service of the ecological transition.

Agreement Between Axiom Space And New Zealand Space Agency

On September 19, Axiom Space and the New Zealand Space Agency strengthened collaboration at the IAC 2022. They discussed opportunities to conduct groundbreaking research in space. 

At the world’s largest space conference, Axiom Space and Aotearoa New Zealand, signed a memorandum of understanding to advance world leading studies in science and technology and New Zealand’s space industry. The agreement will provide Aotearoa New Zealand access to conduct groundbreaking research on the ISS, through Axiom-sponsored missions and, in the future, on Axiom Station, the world’s first commercial space station. 

Turkey To Send Its First Astronaut To Space

On September 19, Houston-based private aerospace firm Axiom Space and the government of Turkey signed a historic agreement to send the first Turkish astronaut to space. Axiom Space will also train a Turkish astronaut for a future space research mission, and will enable Turkish science and research to be conducted in microgravity. 

The Houston-based aerospace firm is working with the TÜBÏTAK Space Technologies Research Institute (TÜBÏTAK UZAY), under the direction of the Turkish Space Agency, Türkiye Uzay Ajansı, to enable Turkish research to be conducted in microgravity. 

MDA Announces Second Commercial Sale Of Its Products To Axiom Space

At the world’s largest space conference, MDA Ltd., a Canadian space technology company, announced the second commercial sale of its space robotics technology to Axiom Space. On September 20, MDA announced the second commercial sale of its products derived from Canadarm3 technology to Axiom Space. 

The new contract is for the delivery of 62 payload interface pairs for Axiom Space’s Axiom Station, which will provide mechanical, electrical, and data connections for payloads that will be externally mounted on the commercial space station to perform activities including scientific research, Earth observation, communications, and a host of other applications. The contract sets the stage for further opportunities in advance of the first planned Axiom Station launch in 2024, a statement released by MDA said.

In the statement, Mike Greenley, CEO of MDA, said the new contract is the latest milestone in the company’s journey with Axiom Space, further solidifying MDA’s role as the world’s leading space robotics company and a key enabler in the global commercial space market.

Canada May Send Humans To Space With Axiom Space

On September 21, Axiom Space and the CSA signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to explore opportunities for sustained access to space and build Canada’s legacy in human spaceflight. 

Canada aims to send humans to space with Axiom Space, aboard SpaceX spacecraft, under the agreement. 

The agreement between the CSA and Axiom Space means that potentially, for the first time, CSA astronauts could fly to space on something other than a government spacecraft. 

The agreement is aimed at examining the potential for collaboration between Axiom, the CSA and the Canadian space industry for the development of future space infrastructure, and exploring opportunities for sustained access to space. These opportunities include the potential for Canadian astronauts to fly on future Axiom-sponsored missions, a statement released by Axiom Space said. 

Sneak Peek Into Axiom Station

At the IAC 2022, Axiom Space provided a special sneak peek of Axiom Station through an exclusive Virtual Reality (VR) session. 

Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre At IAC 2022

The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), a Dubai government organisation working on the UAE (United Arab Emirates) space programme, participated in the IAC 2022.

The UAE’s lunar rover, called Rashid, will be launched on a date between November 9 and 15, UAE-based English-language newspaper The National reported. 

The exact launch date will be announced a month before the launch window opens, Dr Hamad Al Marzooqi, mission manager at the MBRSC, told The National. 

The Rashid rover will be launched to the lunar surface aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida. 

The MBRSC hosted the International Astronautical Congress in Dubai in 2021, a first in the Arab world. 

At this year’s conference, the MBRSC presented the space centre’s most prominent projects and missions, and the developments of an initiative they launched in the last session with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. 

Hend Mana Saeed Al Otaiba, the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to France, also attended the 73rd IAC. 

At the IAC 2022, Adnan AlRais, manager of the Mars 2117 programme, a project as part of which the UAE plans to establish the first inhabitable human settlement in the Red Planet by 2117, presented the main challenges of establishing a human presence on Mars. He said that food, water and energy are the main challenges. 

The Minister of State for High Technologies of the United Arab Emirates, Sarah Al Amiri, also attended the space congress in Paris. The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Paris said on Twitter that the IAC is an opportunity to promote the expertise of the UAE and strengthen partnerships with the international community.

Hend Al Otaiba wrote on Twitter that the UAE is putting its space technology at the service of the energy transition to deal with climate change, and that the United Arab Emirates Space Agency and the MBRSC testified to this during the IAC 2022. 

The MBRSC participated at the Space Climate Observatory Meeting, held at IAC 2022. At the meeting, Saeed AlMansoori, Director of the Remote Sensing Department, gave an overview of MBRSC’s solutions in environmental studies, disaster management, and monitoring.

The UAE Space Agency and the JAXA discussed aspects of future cooperation between the two sides, and the various activities and initiatives aimed at consolidating integration and cooperation in space exploration programmes. 

At the world’s largest space congress, the UAE Space Agency and the Turkish Space Agency signed a Letter of Intent to establish a joint scientific research on Earth Observation applications.

The UAE delegation, headed by Sarah Al Amiri, Minister of State for Public Education and Advanced Technology, and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Emirates Schools Establishment, participated in a meeting with the representatives of the Artemis Accords, where the developments of the Artemis Program and the next steps for lunar exploration activities were discussed. 

Space Agencies Of Bahrain And Nepal To Participate In Joint Programme Of MBRSC And UNOOSA

On the sidelines of IAC 2022, an announcement on the Payload Hosting Initiative (PHI) was made. This is a joint programme of the MBRSC and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. 

On the sidelines of the event, the MBRSC and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs announced the participation of Bahrain’s National Space Science Agency (NSSA) and Nepal’s Antarikchya Pratisthan in the PHI-1 mission. The agencies will test their innovation in space, as part of the PHI-1 mission. 

The MBRSC will launch the mission in collaboration with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. 

The opening day of the IAC 2022 set the tone for a successful event. At the IAC 2022, the Prime Minister of France,  Élisabeth Borne, announced a budget of nine billion Euros for the French space sector over the next three years. More than 3,000 papers were submitted throughout the week. As many as 800 innovative presentations were given. Some of the most interesting topics covered by plenaries and highlight lectures included the James Webb Space Telescope’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) and DART Mission. 

More than 2,200 delegates were present for the Public Day on September 21, including ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet. 

With the addition of 45 new members, the IAF membership increased to 468. Greece, Iceland, Monaco, and Rwanda are the four additional countries which are now a part of the IAF Family. 

The IAF, which is the world’s leading space body, and the National Centre for Space Studies (CNES), the French government space agency, broke every record, a statement released by the IAC says. The first IAC was held in Paris in 1950, and was attended by 10 delegates. The global space event, held in the same city 72 years later, witnessed the participation of a record-breaking number of delegates, giving a glimpse into the bright future of space. 

Not only was there an impressive number of delegates, but the vow to produce the first environmentally sustainable IAC was also kept. 

The IAF General Assembly selected Baku, Azerbaijan as the host city for IAC 2023, Milan, Italy as the host city for IAC 2024, and Sydney, Australia, as the host city for IAC 2025. 

The IAC 2022 represented an exceptional venue for exchanges, commemoration, and international cooperation.