September 28, 2017

IAC 2017 – Meetings and discussions about the future of aerospace

Participants at the Global Networking Forum (GNF), held during the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) 2017 in Adelaide, Australia, discussed the strategic objectives of the aerospace sector for the coming decades. The discussions at international level also addressed the commercial and scientific use of space for the benefit of society as a whole.

Of the Moon and Mars – Science, technology and innovation

Future space strategies will be built on the pillars of astronaut and robotic exploration. The rising number of nations currently engaged in space exploration will enable new mission scenarios and collaborations from around the middle of the next decade. "Preparation of a future roadmap for exploration is highly dependent on the technologies that are available today," says Pascale Ehrenfreund, Chair of the DLR Executive Board. "Synergies and collaboration at a global level are the parameters that drive our determination to establish a new form of cooperation – also due to the different roles that institutional and industrial partners play in the aerospace sector."

The IAC programme listed missions to the Moon and Mars as among the greatest challenges for the future. The participants shared information on their current mission planning for planetary exploration. They also discussed the role that robotics will play in the preparation of astronaut missions and how exploration can foster peaceful cooperation on Earth. Ehrenfreund met with Roberto Batiston, President of the Italian space agency ASI, Igor Komarow from Roskosmos, Sylvain Laporte, Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Space Agency, and others.

ISS, and then?

Driven by the fact that technical operation of the International Space Station ISS will probably not be possible beyond 2024, the chief space nations and agencies are currently developing their own programmes. These programmes are based on their individual technological and scientific experience and commercial intentions. This development has been accompanied by a paradigm shift due to the increasing activities by private sector space enterprises. Prompted by the activities on the International Space Station ISS as an example for a project based on impressive, long-term and international cooperation, the space nations and industrial representatives have started a discussion on the future of human spaceflight in the post-ISS era.

"Interesting scientific options exist for the aerospace nations to invest in low Earth orbit (LEO) missions," emphasises Hansjörg Dittus, Member of the DLR Executive Board for Space Research and Technology. "A new astronaut infrastructure would be conceivable as well as just satellites." In this regard, DLR has prepared a study entitled 'Orbital Hub DLR Vision 2025' that examines possible future scenarios from technological and financial perspectives. They also focus on the period after the end of the ISS. The examined mission scenarios for low Earth orbit are based on strictly scientific and technological frameworks and are predicated on long-term planning.

Among others, Dittus spoke with Bill Gerstenmaier from the US space agency NASA, David Parker from the European space agency ESA and Sergei Krikalev from the Russian space agency Roscosmos about ideas for coming missions in low Earth orbit. There are hopes that regular information exchange will create a forum for discussion. This also includes identifying the necessary political, strategic, technical and economic framework required for the development of a new scientific platform in LEO.

Science as a source of innovation

Aerospace drives the development of technologies for new discoveries. Each mission to explore the Solar System generates fresh data and with it new knowledge. Aerospace has revolutionised scientific disciplines like astrophysics and planetary research. Germany has always made a significant contribution to space missions. But space sciences and research will be most successful when they take place within a framework of international collaboration. Gerd Gruppe, Member of the DLR Executive Board for the Space Administration, led a discussion between scientists and engineers from Germany with international guests on what shape this future cooperation may take.

"Germany stands for high-tech and innovation," Gruppe explained. "Both of these aspects are driven by an excellent scientific community that is deeply rooted in aerospace as well." This is why Germany attaches great importance to joint activities with its European and international partners, as evidenced by its leading contribution to the European share in the International Space Station ISS and elsewhere. The group also discussed Germany's current engagement in space research and its vision for future missions and projects.


Manuela Braun

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