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‘Israel is the center of global interest’ (International Astronautical Congress)… No China?

“On Wednesday, Minister Akunis continued to New Jersey where he will advance a new and updated scientific and technological agreement between the two states, with tremendous potential for cooperation between them.”

“J Bezos, the billionaire founder of Blue Origin, will receive the IAF’s first “Excellence in Industry” award at a ceremony Oct. 22.”

Israel is the center of global interest’

‘Israel is the center of global interest’

Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis inaugurates Israeli pavilion at International Astronautical Congress.

Nitsan Keidar, 24/10/19

The Israeli Space Agency and the Israel Aerospace Industries this week launched their pavilion at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) being held in Washington, DC.

The Israeli pavilion was inaugurated by Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis, Israeli Space Agency Director Avi Balsberger and Ofer Doron, general manager of the Space Division at Israel Aerospace Industries.

The Israeli pavilion features selected models of products from the Israeli space industry. This is the 70th year of the IAC, featuring some 150 leading space agencies and space industries from around the world. Israel is represented by about 40 Israelis, including representatives from various industries, academia, the Israeli Space Agency, and graduates of the International Space University whose projects will be presented at the conference.

On Wednesday, Minister Akunis continued to New Jersey where he will advance a new and updated scientific and technological agreement between the two states, with tremendous potential for cooperation between them.

Minister Akunis said that “Israel is the center of global interest in promoting collaborations in science and innovation. The Israeli pavilion at the annual conference of the international space industry is a great opportunity, which brings together dozens of countries, to expose our glorious space industry and dozens of technological developments.”

The Chinese are noticeably absent from an important global space conference

By Tim FernholzOctober 22, 2019

Attendees hoping to hear from the world’s busiest space power were disappointed after a Chinese space official didn’t show at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC), a 70-year-old space conference.

In 2018, China launched more missions to orbit than any other nation, and it looks likely to do so again in 2019. But at a discussion between the heads of the world’s leading space agencies, Wu Yanhua, the vice chairman of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), was not present.

“I miss an important space agency in this panel. Where is China?” read the most popular crowd-sourced question displayed in enormous type above the assembled space dignitaries.

Pascale Ehrenfreund, the head of the German space agency, blamed Yanhua’s absence on a scheduling conflict. That’s difficult to believe, given that the annual conference is planned years in advance. Later, Jan Woerner, the head of the European Space Agency, told Quartz that he believed Yanhua was unable to obtain a visa to enter the United States.

“It’s not nice for me, because I’m always looking forward to interactions with all states worldwide, so I’m sad that they are not here,” he said.

A spokesperson for the International Astronautical Federation (IAF), which organizes the conference, said that Yanhua had notified them that he would not be able to attend several days before the conference. At a press briefing held before the opening day, no mention was made of Yanhua’s absence—though organizers said they spent 18 months working to obtain visas for Chinese and Russian nationals. Chinese officials have attended other IAC events recently in Germany, Australia and Mexico.

The US State Department did not respond to e-mailed questions about the visas, nor did the CNSA.

Sergey Krikalev, the director of human spaceflight at Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, frowned and said it was a pity that an official Chinese representative wasn’t on hand. But he said that he would be meeting with Chinese officials next week and that space cooperation between the countries is ongoing. Krikalev’s boss, Roscomos chief Dmitry Rogozin, is now forbidden from entering the US due to sanctions imposed following Russia’s seizure of Crimea in 2014.

Despite testy geopolitical feuds, the US and Russia have maintained admirable cooperation while operating the International Space Station alongside 13 other nations. But US space officials are forbidden by law from bilateral cooperation with their Chinese counterparts. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said “that problem is above my pay grade.”

China’s space ambitions—including a crewed habitat in low-Earth orbit and lunar exploration—have figured as a bogeyman in the Trump administration’s domestic space rhetoric. And US national security officials believe there is an organized effort by China to steal high-tech US space hardware.

This morning, vice president Mike Pence pointedly noted that space cooperation would be aimed only at “freedom-loving nations.” Bridenstine was asked if that represented a change in US policy, which has often had to set space aside as a place its willing to cooperate with terrestrial rivals.

“When we think about the future, we do need to be careful about things like the theft of intellectual property,” Bridenstine said, referencing a sore spot in ongoing trade tensions between the US and China. “We need to be careful about how we go about bringing new partners in that ultimately could be more harmful than helpful in future. That’s probably what the vice president was referencing in his speech today.”

The IAF spokesperson said that lower-ranking CNSA officials were attending the conference and engaging with their international colleagues, though none could be found at press time and China did not host a booth in the exhibition hall. China HEAD Aerospace Technology Co., a Chinese-European space firm, was assigned a space in the hall, but the location was empty.

All in all, China’s absence proved a major disappointment.

“Meetings where we have been here physically in person have been key to international collaboration,” Sylvain Laporte, the head of the Canadian Space Agency, said during the space agency leaders panel.

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International Astronautical Congress brings space world, and political issues, to Washington

by Jeff Foust — October 20, 2019

IAC 2019 logo
More than 6,300 people are registered to attend the 70th International Astronautical Congress in Washington, which starts Oct. 21. Credit: SpaceNews/Jeff Foust

WASHINGTON — The International Astronautical Federation is ready for one of its biggest conferences ever this week, even as organizers deal with political and geopolitical issues about the event.

The 70th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) formally starts here Oct. 21, with more than 6,300 people registered to attend, representatives of the IAF and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), the host organization for the event, said during a press conference here Oct. 20.

The event’s highlights include a heads-of-agencies panel Oct. 21 that includes NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine along with representatives from space agencies in Canada, China, Europe, India, Japan and Russia. Jeff Bezos, the billionaire founder of Blue Origin, will receive the IAF’s first “Excellence in Industry” award at a ceremony Oct. 22.

The most prominent participant in the event, though, will be Vice President Mike Pence, who will speak at the conference’s opening ceremony Oct. 21. Pence’s appearance, announced earlier this month by conference organizers, has attracted some criticism because of Pence’s stance on social issues.

An online petition published Oct. 19 called on the IAF to rescind Pence’s invitation to speak because of his views. Organizers said they planned to walk out of the opening ceremonies when Pence speaks at about 10:15 a.m. Eastern. More than 150 people have signed the petition as of the afternoon of Oct. 20, although it’s not clear how many will be at the conference.

Conference organizers, who said they were “very proud” that Pence was participating, defended the decision to invite him at the pre-event press conference. Dan Dumbacher, executive director of AIAA, said Pence was invited in his role as chairman of the National Space Council. “It’s very appropriate for the audience here at the IAC to hear from the chair of the National Space Council,” he said.

“AIAA values diversity and inclusion. It is one of our prime efforts in the institute,” he added. “We value all the voices. Vice President Pence is a voice, and there are other voices, and we want all the voices here.”

Lucianne Walkowicz, an astronomer at the Adler Planetarium and one of the organizers of the petition, said Oct. 20 she wasn’t sure how many people might participate in any protest at the opening ceremony. She believed some people felt constrained by industry affiliations from participating, while others may decide simply not to attend the opening ceremony.

Any protest would be rare for an IAC or other space industry event. Pence has spoken at other space industry conferences, including the Satellite 2019 conference in May in the same convention center that’s hosting IAC, as well as the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs in April 2018, without incident.

IAC organizers have also had to deal with another issue that’s become common in recent years: securing visas for attendees from some nations, notably China and Russia. Vincent Boles, co-chair of the local organizing committee for the 2019 IAC, said his committee started working with the U.S. State Department 18 months ago to ensure that visas would be ready in time for attendees.

Boles said they expected a “very high attendance rate” from China and Russia at the IAC. That includes Wu Yanhua, vice administrator of the China National Space Administration, who is scheduled to speak at the heads-of-agencies panel.

Sergey Krikalev, executive director for piloted spaceflights for Roscosmos, will represent his agency at that panel. Dmitry Rogozin, head of Roscosmos, remains barred from entering the United States because of sanctions imposed from his role as deputy prime minister when Russian annexed Crimea in 2014.

Conference organizers hope that the IAC’s location will help win support for NASA’s space exploration plans from members of Congress. AIAA and other organizations started holding briefings about the IAC on Capitol Hill months ago for members and their staffs, and plans to offer tours of the exhibit hall and other opportunities during the week-long conference for members and staffers.

“It’s the perfect time to engage Congressional members and make them aware of the strengths of the U.S. space industry and the importance of international collaboration,” Boles said.

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