Results of the 74th International Astronautical Congress exceeded expectations

Last week the world space community gathered in Baku for the 74th International Astronautical Congress (IAC 2023). The hearts of those whose eyes were in the sky and thoughts in space beat together with Baku time.

The event, organized annually by the International Astronautical Federation, is a platform to discuss space research, innovations, exchange ideas and experience. It is organized with the participation of national space agencies, heads of companies working in this field, specialists and scientists. Thus, the event also plays the role of a platform where important cooperation is established.

The Baku Congress, held from 2 to 6 October, was held under the slogan “Global Challenges: Give Space a Chance”. The event was also a chance for those who came together with this motto. The Congress opened new horizons for cooperation between the space community. It gave Azerbaijan the opportunity to present itself more closely, to demonstrate its potential as a member of the space family as well as its culture. Azerbaijan has successfully seized this opportunity.


The beginning of a great journey

The International Astronautical Congress was not the first experience for Baku, which has hosted many large and prestigious events so far. This prestigious event was held in Azerbaijan back in Soviet times – in 1973 on the initiative of national leader Heydar Aliyev. It was the first and only congress organized on the territory of the USSR. Holding the event in Baku was a strategic step; it was intended to focus the attention of the space community in Azerbaijan and to develop this field in the country.

Fifty years later, the congress was held for the second time in Baku, in the same city. However, as Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev noted at the opening ceremony, the country is no longer the same. Now independent Azerbaijan is the host of this global event. Azerbaijan, which after almost 30 years has restored its territorial integrity with a great victory. Azerbaijan, which is a member of the international space family with its satellites. Azerbaijan, which provides services to more than 45 countries using satellites operated by local experts.

Officially, serious preparations were underway in Baku for the 74th International Astronautical Congress. From the smallest details – from hanging banners in taxis, on streets and avenues, to preparing the venue, to organizing the opening ceremony – everything was thought out with precision and creativity and successfully implemented. Thanks to these factors, the Baku Congress not only met expectations, but even exceeded them.


Unique start of a unique event

Clay Mowry, President of the International Astronautical Federation, said at the opening ceremony that the congress is a unique event for the space community. It’s the only time of year they can come together to share experiences, meet colleagues and make new connections.

The Baku Congress events were organized at the Baku Congress Center and Heydar Aliyev Center. In addition, a temporary exhibition pavilion with an area of 8,000 square metres was built on the territory between the two centers. Booths of 150 companies from 36 countries were presented there.

The opening ceremony of the congress was unique in composition: modelling of planets, original presentation of Azerbaijan’s history and culture, expression of the 4 main elements of the universe – water, fire, air and the Earth – in the language of 4 musical genres – jazz, rock, classical music and mugham – created an unusual environment similar to the space itself.

On behalf of the international space community, the surprise gift presented to Ilham Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, was an expression of gratitude for his direct and great support in organizing this event. The photo of the head of state together with great leader Heydar Aliyev at the Baku Congress in 1973 was sent to the space station. The returned historical photo was presented to President Ilham Aliyev together with other four attributes of the 24th Congress.

The participation and appearance at the event of renowned Israeli historian and writer Yuval Noah Harari as a special guest was an indicator of the diversity and prestige of the Baku Congress.


Innovations, records

It was not difficult to predict that the Baku Congress would become a hotly debated platform and arouse interest on a global scale. The record numbers achieved during the preparatory period made it possible to predict this.

3,600 scientific articles from 95 countries were submitted to the congress. This was a record number of countries in the history of IAC. Of these, 2,311 articles were accepted to the Congress. By the way, this year Azerbaijan was also the first to lead the way. It joined the event with a record number of articles – 214. In the list of countries that submitted the largest number of scientific articles, Azerbaijan ranked fifth after the USA, Italy, India and China.

The Baku Congress also achieved a record number of sponsorship packages. Twenty-two companies received a sponsorship package for the event. This was the highest number compared to congresses held in the last five countries – Australia, Germany, the USA, the United Arab Emirates and France.

Another record-breaking result was recorded during the event: 5,404 representatives from 132 countries took part in the Baku Congress. For the first time in the history of IAC, representatives from 132 countries joined the event. The largest delegations came from India, the USA, China and Turkiye. Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan took part in the congress for the first time.


Objectives achieved

The Baku Congress had specific objectives. One of them was to ensure greater youth participation in the event. In general, involving the younger generation in the development of the space industry is one of the main goals of the International Astronautical Federation. Just as young people are considered the future of the world and countries, the bright future of the space world depends on them.

The Baku Congress achieved its goal: 50 per cent of the event’s participants were young people under 35 years of age. Only 500 students from the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ICESCO) participated in the event. At the same time, 500 participants from the Turkish Teknofest festival were present at the event.

Another aim of the congress was to expand the ranks of the International Astronautical Federation. A record was achieved in this area as well. For the first time, 55 organizations joined this family at the same time – precisely during the Baku Congress.


Issues on the agenda

The agenda of the 74th International Astronautical Congress was rich. Over 5 days, 423 interactive presentations, 168 technical, 7 plenary sessions and 20 global networking forums were held.

Many topical issues were discussed at the events, such as space exploration, advances in space navigation systems, services and applications, and international cooperation in Earth observation. In addition, round tables with representatives from the United States and Africa were held for the first time at the Baku Congress.

One of the highlights of the Baku Congress was an online speech by Space X founder Elon Musk on 5 October.

It should be emphasized that on the first day of the Baku Congress, Elon Musk was awarded the “World Space Prize” of the International Astronautical Federation for his achievements in the field of space.

During the online speech, Elon Musk answered questions about SpaceX’s space activities and shared details of the projects currently underway. He noted that the Starship spacecraft and crewed SpaceX super-heavy rocket called Starship are also fully reusable transport systems designed to deliver cargo to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars and beyond. Starship is the most powerful launch vehicle ever built in the world, capable of carrying up to 150 metric tonnes of fully reusable payloads and 250 metric tonnes of disposable payloads. According to Elon Musk, in 3-4 years, the Starship will be able to land on Mars unhindered and can also be used as a space laboratory. It can stay in space for as long as you want.

It is no coincidence that this performance of Elon Musk became another record-breaking performance. His 60-minute online speech on the platform "X" garnered more than 40 million views.


Towards new horizons

The five-day Baku Congress made a significant contribution to the global space community in terms of expanding and strengthening cooperation and involving young people in this field.

The event was useful for Azerbaijan in terms of enhancing its international reputation, presenting opportunities and establishing new partnerships.

The Space Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan – Azercosmos signed a number of contracts within the framework of the congress. One of the most important among them was a co-operation agreement signed with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). The ongoing Azersky-2 programme includes the development of a remote Earth observation satellite with two high-resolution electro-optical sensors. One of the satellites will be developed in Israel with the participation of Azerbaijani specialists, while the second will be developed in Azerbaijan with the support of the company.

The cooperation agreement signed between Azercosmos and ICESCO is also important. The organization invests more than $500,000 in the project “Business, Innovation and Science” presented by Vugar Bayramov, Advisor to the Chairman on International Relations at Azercosmos.

It can be concluded that the Baku Congress will stimulate the new process of technological development that has begun in the country. President Ilham Aliyev emphasized this in his speech at the event: “This congress held in Baku will certainly give a new impetus to the development and modernization of the space industry, modern technologies and innovation sector of our country. The word “modernization” describes our vision, agenda and plans for the future.

This means that Azerbaijan will achieve greater success by advancing on the path of development in line with modern challenges and taking important steps to build an innovative society: both on Earth and in space. The achievements will serve peace and improve the well-being of mankind.