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From left: Yousuf Hamad AlShaibani, Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC) Director General; Salem AlMarri, MBRSC deputy director general; Prof. Pascale Ehrenfreund, president of International Astronautical Federation (IAF); and Dr. Christian Feichtinger, IAF executive director Image Credit: Angel Tesorero/Gulf news

Dubai: Experts, policymakers, professionals and other stakeholders in the global space community will gather in Dubai for the 72nd International Astronautical Congress (IAC), happening from October 25-29 at the World Trade Centre.

The UAE is the first Arab country to host the space congress, organised by the International Astronautical Federation (IAF), in collaboration with the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC). IAC will feature a line-up of thematic plenary events, lectures, in-depth technical and special sessions and interactive workshops, in addition to an exclusive global networking forum, social events and a space science exhibition. “The entire space community will come together to meet, share and connect; and this will happen in Dubai. The IAC will cover all space topis — from space exploration to space communication as well as space and society,” IAF executive director Dr. Christian Feichtinger told Gulf News during a press conference held in Dubai on Tuesday.

Space traffic management and space debris

Dr. Feichtinger noted: “There is no aspect of space issue that will not be covered. There will be over 2,500 technical presentations and rich plenary sessions. One of the topics high on the agenda will be space traffic management and space debris. The IAF will have a dedicated committee to deal with this question.”

Space debris, also known as space junk, has recently grabbed global headlines following the debris from China’s Long March 5B rocket that plummeted into the Indian Ocean on May 9. Experts said there are potential dangers that come from humanity’s expanding presence in space.

Future of space activities

The IAF, to be held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, will be the focal point of global conversation on the present and future of space activities. This year’s theme is ‘Inspire, Innovate and Discover for the Benefit of Mankind’.

IAF president Prof. Pascale Ehrenfreund has praised the UAE for hosting the event. She said: “The congress will encompass a plenary programme with the heads of agencies round-table, and sessions focusing on future Mars sample return missions, emerging space agencies, small satellites, and the views of the next generation.”

Yousuf Hamad AlShaibani, MBRSC director general, MBRSC, added: “On the back of the UAE’s achievements in the space field and a futuristic vision for the sector, we look forward to hosting this year’s IAC. The event will act as a catalyst for more nations from the region to engage with international partners and empower a new generation of space experts that will work for humanity.”

5,000 people in attendance

MBRSC deputy director general Salem AlMarri told Gulf News previous events saw the 5,000 people in attendance. Founded in 1951, IAF is the world’s leading space advocacy body with 407 members in 71 countries, including leading space agencies, companies, research institutions, universities, societies, associations, institutes and museums worldwide.

How to join the Space Congress
Registration is now open. To register for the event, visit the organisation’s website and for any other queries related to registration, please email

AlMarri noted: “The space congress is key to fostering a UAE-based flourishing start-up space ecosystem, placing an impactful footprint, and establishing pivotal alliances with leading international space organisations and agencies.

Expo 2020 Dubai

AlMarri said the IAC will coincide with the Space Week at Expo 2020 Dubai. “The UAE hosting this year’s edition reaffirms our commitment to support the growth and development of the global space sector. We have been working closely with all relevant government authorities in Dubai to ensure the safety of everyone, setting up all required protocols that will help us pursue a successful event in October,” he added.

AlMarro also noted the space congress venue at Dubai World Trade Centre is just 30 minutes away from the Expo venue on Dubai Metro. “As the event will be happening alongside the Expo 2020 Dubai, we are confident that those attending the congress will have plenty of opportunities to also experience what is billed as the greatest show on Earth,” he added.

Safety protocols

Since the space congress will be a face-to-face event, AlMarri also added: “We have been working closely with all relevant government authorities in Dubai to ensure the safety of everyone, setting up all required protocols.

He noted: “The UAE’s National Crisis and Emergency Management Authority reported that almost 70 per cent of eligible people for the COVID-19 vaccination, which includes UAE nationals and resident expatriates, have been inoculated against the virus.”