Star forum at the start: Betting on space - Baku's long-term strategy
    Review by Caliber.Az

    ANALYTICS  03 October 2023 - 12:48

    Khazar Akhundov

    For over a decade, Azerbaijan has been successfully developing its national space industry, focusing on the export of services. The Azerbaijan Space Agency (Azercosmos), operating under the Ministry of Digital Development and Transport, aims to expand international cooperation, introduce new technologies, and create a regional space hub in the republic. A significant step in this direction was the holding of the 74th International Congress of Astronautics in Baku on October 2-6. The forum, organized by the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) and Azercosmos, is attended by delegations from more than a hundred countries around the world, and its opening ceremony took place with the participation of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.

    The International Astronautical Congress (IAC) is an annual meeting of scientists and specialists in the field of astronautics with the participation of heads of national space agencies, traditionally held in late September or early October. This global event is hosted by the IFA, the International Academy of Astronautics and the International Institute of Space Law, and hosted by one of the IFA's national members.

    The first congress took place in September back in 1950 in Paris, and for three decades (1950-1980) all forums were held exclusively in cities of Europe and the American continent. The only exception was the organization of the IAC congress in the capital of what was then Soviet Azerbaijan: on the initiative of national leader Heydar Aliyev, on October 7-13, 1973, under the motto “Space research - penetration into science and technology,” the 24th Astronautics Congress was held in Baku. Thus, the Azerbaijani capital was chosen as the first city in the entire vast Eurasian region to host such an authoritative world-class event.

    And now, half a century later, Azerbaijan for the second time won the right to host the most prestigious forum of the space industry: this decision was made in October 2019 at the General Assembly of the International Astronautical Federation in Washington. Organized for the 74th time, the IAC International Congress in Baku is held under the motto “Global Challenges and Opportunities: Let’s Give Space a Chance”.

    Representatives of space agencies, relevant departments of the public sector, investors and private space companies, local and international media - a total of over 5,000 representatives from 101 countries of the world - take part in it. A specialized exhibition will also be held in conjunction with the events of the congress, in the pavilions of which 150 of the world's leading companies are presented.

    The forum and exhibition are attended by such authoritative structures as the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA), the Italian Space Agency (Agenzia Speziale Italiana), the AIRBUS company, the Canadian innovation center Ino, the French National Center for Space Research CNES, Indian Space Agency ISRO, Turkish Space Agency Türkiye Uzay Ajansı, Roscosmos and other foreign structures. Such a high level of represented countries and organizations is a very important factor, and the significance of the event held in Azerbaijan was emphasized by the President of the International Astronautical Federation, Clay Mowry, who spoke at the opening ceremony: “The role of the International Astronautical Congress held in Baku today is even more important for uniting the entire space community in a difficult geopolitical period".

    As part of the events of the Baku Congress from October 2 to 6, conferences, technical sessions and exhibitions will also be organized. The main events will be held at the Baku Congress Center, and technical sessions at the Heydar Aliyev Center.

    At the opening of the 74th IAC International Congress, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev spoke, noting that “for over ten years Azerbaijan has been a member of the international space club. Today our country owns two telecommunications satellites and one earth observation satellite. We continue to develop this area, and today over 45 countries use the services of telecommunication satellites launched by Azerbaijan”. The president also spoke about the importance of holding this event in Baku, emphasizing that this step contributes to the development of the space sector, the introduction of advanced technologies and modernization in Azerbaijan.

    In general, the efforts made in the republic for the development of the space sector are very productive, and in this regard, our country occupies one of the first places in the post-Soviet space. Thus, the national operator, Azercosmos, using the resources of the communications satellites Azerspace-1 and Azerspace-2, and until recently, the low-orbit optical satellite Azersky, was able to become the most export-oriented state organization - over 80% of its income is generated through the provision of services in the foreign market.

    About one and a half hundred television and radio channels are broadcast through Azerbaijani satellites, Internet service providers and other structures provide Internet services, and the total user audience reaches 20 million people living in Europe, the CIS, China, Pakistan, Malaysia, the Middle East, Africa - more than that four dozen countries of the world. Azercosmos also provides broadcasting services and provides communications and the Internet to Azerbaijani sea vessels for various purposes, drilling platforms, remote fields and sectors, supports government communications, etc.

    At the same time, Azerbaijan intends to further accelerate the pace of development of the space industry and its coverage in the medium term, and a consistent program is being implemented for this purpose. Thus, in May 2023, Azercosmos and the American corporation SpaceX signed a memorandum of cooperation, thanks to which Starlink broadband satellite Internet services will be available in our country. At the same time, with the support of the American partner, it is planned to launch new Azerbaijani satellites into orbit using Falcon rockets.

    In the near future, the republic's Space Agency plans to form an optical network at a ground station and develop laser communications, and is also completing work on placing European Geostationary Navigation Service (EGNOS) antennas at the Main Ground Satellite Control Center in the village of Guzdak. The cooperation of the national operator with the Turkish space agency and other member countries of the Organization of Turkic States (OTS) is very active; in particular, memorandums of cooperation between Azercosmos and the space agencies of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have been signed.

    “The conduct of the International Astronautics Congress in Azerbaijan is a great pride for all of us: the stands of the Turkish companies Roketsan and Aselsan are presented at the exhibition, and our organization engaged in space exploration also takes part in the work of the congress,” said Selcuk, a congress participant, technical director of the Turkish company Baykar Bayraktar. He emphasized that Azerbaijan and Türkiye plan to consistently develop cooperation in the field of space.

    Among the participants of the congress in Baku is the world-famous American entrepreneur and founder of Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk, with whose company the Azerbaijan Space Agency is preparing to cooperate.


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