16th Space Generation Congress Daily Newsletter


The Space Generation Advisory Council hosted its 16th Space Generation Congress in Adelaide, Australia from 21-23 September, 2017. The sold out event, which took place at the University of Adelaide, welcomed over 150 delegates from more than 43 countries, 82 of which had received a scholarship from SGAC or one of its partners.


21 September, 2017



Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3


Day 1 - SGC Kicks Off and Cultural Night

Following delegate registration, the Congress was opened at the Horace Lamb Lecture Theatre by SGAC Executive Director, Minoo Rathnasabapathy. Ms Rathnasabapathy introduced the SGAC Deputy Executive Director, Clementine Decoopman, and SGAC Co-Chair, Alexander Gibson, who both introduced the history of the SGAC to the audience and explained how SGAC achieves its goals. The Space Generation Congress (SGC) Manager, Arnau Pons Lorente, took the stage to give an overview of the SGC programme, to share the intended outcomes for the UN COPUOS, and to thank the organising team for their efforts.

Afterwards, the first presenter of the day, Jason Crusan, Director of NASA Advanced Exploration Systems, gave delegates an update of the NASA Human Exploration plans, focusing on strategic principles for sustainable exploration such as fiscal realism and scientific exploration.

Following these presentations, thanks to the support of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, a coffee break was held during which participants discussed the morning activities.

After the break, participants separated into their respective working groups.

The Space Exploration Working Group focusing on Expanding Global Partnerships Off Earth (sponsored by NASA AES) started with a round of delegate introductions. The delegates introduced themselves, their profession and affiliation, and the perspectives of human space exploration from their countries or organisations. The Working Group then spent the morning focusing on the Deep Space Gateway through a presentation and dialogue with Subject Matter Expert Marshall Smith from NASA. In the afternoon, the delegates split into groups to focus their discussions on specific topics of interest. Among the topics discussed were: (i) new ways to utilise the Deep Space Gateway (DSG) and opportunities to conduct science; (ii) how to use the DSG for commercial and private industry on topics like maintenance and related activities; and (iii) the potential that different nations can bring into DSG as international cooperation. The Working Group investigated new views and ideas that can help inform what science and technologies are being overlooked in the current DSG plans.

The Space Diplomacy Working Group focusing on Space Resources Governance (sponsored by Secure World Foundation (SWF)) opened with a presentation from Subject Matter Expert Mr. Ian Christensen from SWF explaining the various UN treaties and their implications for space resources governance. Former SWF Executive Director Ray Williamson and Subject Matter Expert Krystal Wilson from SWF contributed with insights during the discussion which ensued. The Working Group identified five key areas of focus: (i) accountability - who is held accountable for space resources exploitation and who bears responsibility for risks; (ii) Clarity and Certainty vs Ambiguity - is there a need to legally define key terms that can be interpreted differently or maintain the status quo; (iii) ownership; (iv) innovation (policy driven); and (v) market - with rapid growth in technology, why regulation is important and what are the accompanying benefits. Generally, there were discussions around the legality about space resources exploitation. The Working Group recognised that the international legal framework applicable to space activities has been developed at the beginning of the space era when commercial initiatives have not been considered.

The Space Law Working Group focusing on the Outer Space Treaty (sponsored by Defence Science and Technology Group, Australia) opened with introductions and discussions with the Subject Matter Experts, Crystal Forrester, R. Franzen and Duncan Blake. The Working Group split into three groups to explore (i) militarisation - e.g. means and methods to prevent creation of (more) long-term space debris; (ii) space debris - e.g. definition of space debris as distinct from space object; and (iii) commercialisation - e.g. can we draft text to a protocol of the OST that allows the growth to upcoming space companies without inhibiting present space faring nations? The general strategy of the Working Group was to identify issues and problems which are not fully addressed by the Outer Space Treaty and the priority to allocate to each issue and problems.

The Space Innovation Working Group focusing on Moon Village the Next Frontier for Innovation (sponsored by ESA) opened with introductions and discussed each delegate’s individual understanding of the term ‘Moon Village’. The Working Group is confronted with five key questions. The goal of the first day was to bring delegates together and establish a common understanding of the Moon Village concept proposed by ESA. In intensive whole group discussions the participants of the Space Innovation working group elaborated on different approaches and ideas leading towards defining the Moon Village concept and possible answers to the five questions posed.

The Space Transportation Working Group focusing on The Workhorse of Future Space (supported by Blue Origin) started with an ice-breaker activity where delegates were challenged to partner with another Working Group member from a different country, get to know each other, then introduce their partners to the group. Delegates were also encouraged to consider cultural differences between their respective home nations. The Working Group then broke into smaller sub-groups to discuss their goals for the Working Group and potentials risks which might jeopardise success. The Working Group concluded the morning session with a brainstorming session aiming to generate broad focus areas. After lunch, the Working Group used these focus areas as inspiration to generate ideas for problems and opportunities on which the Working Group can focus. These ideas were recorded on post-it notes, sorted into broad categories and the categories were voted on to determine the focus for the group for the remainder of SGC.

The Space Technologies Working Group focusing on Laser Space Communications (sponsored by NASA SCaN) has the objective of giving recommendations that facilitate the definition of international standards for the newly developing laser communication technology. In the morning, following self introductions, the Working Group split into sub-groups to review the reading material and technology status in order to establish a common knowledge basis. Subject Matter Expert, Kate Becker from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provided guidance to the technical focus questions. The Working Group made progress in identifying challenges and industry needs for optical laser communication. One focus area was potential application scenarios for optical communication.

The Working Group discussion time during Day One was interrupted happily by staggered lunch breaks and a group photo taking session at the quad followed by a coffee break sponsored by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

The Working Group then wrapped up their Day One discussions and returned to Horace Lamb Lecture Theatre for the Scholarship Winners Presentations. The presenters were (i) Kristin Shahady (winner of the Move an Asteroid Competition) who presented, inter alia, her findings about public perception of asteroids and her recommendations on how to manage such awareness; (ii) Graham Johnson (winner of the Space is Business Competition) who analysed the reasons why crowdfunding for space missions have and have not succeeded in the past and lessons; (iii) Enrique Garcia Bournes (winner of the OHB Competition) who focused on how to bring asteroids back for commercial gain; (iv) Manfred Ehresmann (winner of the OHB Competition) who examined the use of mass drivers in asteroid mining; and (v) Didunolowa Abiodun Obilanade (winner of the SGAC/Young ESA Diversity Scholarship), who explored how diversity could improve ESA’s work.

The formal part of the conference ended with a presentation by Piero Messina about the ESA Moon Village vision. A notable quote from the presentation is “it’s not Mars or Moon but rather Moon in the path to Mars”. Piero shared that ESA sees itself as a potential broker for the creation of a open-ended ‘Moon Village’ framework.

Finally, the delegates departed for the Adelaide Zoo to participate in the customary and much-anticipated SGC International Cultural Night.




Day 2 - Working Group Activities, Government House Reception and Space Night


Day Two of the Congress kicked off with a welcome address by SGAC Co-Chair, Alexander Gibson, who recapped the highlights of Day One and gave an overview of the programme for Day Two. This was followed by a presentation by Steve Townes from NASA JPL, the Topic Keynote Speaker for the Space Technologies Working Group. Steve gave an introduction to laser communications and shared that it is NASA’s vision that laser communications would become the key mode of space communications in the near future.


The Working Groups then proceeded with Day Two discussions.


The Space Exploration Working Group focusing on Expanding Global Partnerships Off Earth (sponsored by NASA AES) has the objective of giving recommendations on way to use the Deep Space Gateway, for both commercial services and science research. In the morning, the group continued to work on subgroups - the two commercial groups merged their main ideas into three proposals, and the two science teams did the same as well. Before lunch, the entire group reviewed all the proposals and aligned the main ideas to propose an infrastructure to offer commercial services than can also provide the basics for science research. The Subject Matter Expert Erin Mahoney from NASA AES and the Topic Keynote Speaker Jason Crusan from NASA AES provided guidance to narrow the topic, to merge the work into a single product and to start drafting the presentation. The group then refined and prepared the narrative for the next day’s presentation.


The Space Diplomacy Working Group focusing on Space Resources Governance (sponsored by Secure World Foundation (SWF)) spent Day Two focusing on (i) encouragement of the private sector to pursue space resources exploitation; (ii) risk reduction for states from the action of private entities through enforced policies which demand operational transparency of private entities dealing with space resources; (iii) drafting of flexible guidelines to allow the industry to follow its natural development path to ensure legal certainty but not restrict innovation; and (iv) initiation of registry system to recognise property rights on extracted space resources. The Working Group recognises that growing interest of the private sector in space resources requires certain level of accountability.


The Space Law Working Group focusing on the Outer Space Treaty (sponsored by Defence Science and Technology Group, Australia) continued their discussions through three subgroups. The commercialisation group identified three core principles that will be addressed in a protocol for the Outer Space Treaty: resolve article ii to remove any discrepancies from interpretations, establish a governance that will protect property rights by distributing licensing rights to commercial activities, specifically mining, and establish the engagement between the OST and the states to protect humans’ safety in space. The space debris group identified a supplementary article to space registration that requires launching states to track and report updates in orbital elements. This group also defined a collision and requires the launching state to notify the international community about the possibility or actuality of collision fragmentation events. The military uses group focused their efforts on distilling and scoping out the details of the prioritised issues identified on Day One. The key issues were refined to (i) Extending International Humanitarian Law to outer space, with emphasis on particular articles and defining important terms to be appropriate to potential military outer space activities, and (ii) Promoting transparency and confidence-building measures for States in relation to their military activities.


The Space Innovation Working Group focusing on Moon Village the Next Frontier for Innovation (sponsored by ESA) continued on Day Two with the team split up into sub-groups of three to four people to focus on specific questions related to realising the ‘Moon Village’ vision, including “How do we inspire and enable an international partnership?”. The teams then presented their findings back to the main group, and voted on the best ideas contained within. This has formed the initial structure of the group’s recommendation, presentation for the SGC, and eventual official report.


Day two saw the Space Transportation Working Group focusing on The Workhorse of Future Space (supported by Blue Origin) start by splitting into groups to identify the direction the Working Group would be talking. The delegates decided that international collaboration and the commercial part of the sector would be interesting focuses. After some deliberation, the groups were ready to start discussions and to create preliminary recommendations. After lunch, the discussions continued and the different subgroups shared their thoughts with the entire Working Group.


On Day Two, the Space Technologies Working Group focusing on Laser Space Communications (sponsored by NASA SCaN) picked up their achievements from Day One by deriving different, existing link types from the potential application scenarios defined. The link types enabled the identification of areas and stakeholders where might occur. Within this discussion, the group appreciated very much the knowledge and expertise of Topic Keynote Speaker Steve Townes. With his support, a detailed list of challenges was produced in two subgroups. After a common discussion session, the Working Group agreed on a set of solid recommendations for the approach of defining standards that address the main problems and started working on the final presentation and report.


Delegates then returned to Horace Lamb Lecture Theatre for speeches and presentations by Topic Keynote Speakers. The Chair of UN COPUOS, Dr. David Kendall, addressed the audience as the Topic Keynote Speaker of the Space Law Working Group. Dr. Kendall discussed about the Outer Space Treaty and commented on how remarkable it is that the OST remains standing and adhered to. However, the OST is “showing its age” especially in regards to the space debris issue and perhaps space resource extraction; and such issues would hopefully be dealt with through UN COPUOS working groups and the UNISPACE+50 initiative. He highlighted that commercial space is adequately represented at discussions at the UN level. The next speaker was Mr. Clayton Mowry from Blue Origin, Topic Keynote Speaker of the Space Transportation Working Group, who began by explaining the name of Blue Origin and the symbolism of the feather logo and then discussed the plans of Blue Origin. Mr. Jose Ocasio-Christian from Caelus Partners, Topic Keynote Speaker of the Space Diplomacy Working Group, then gave a presentation about investment and community building strategy in the space context.


Selected delegates then proceeded to the Government House for a reception. The day ended with Space Night at the National Wine Centre of Australia.


Day 3 - Final Presentations and the SGC Closing Dinner


It has become SGC tradition for the final day to be packed and intense. SGAC Deputy Executive Director Clementine Decoopman gave a welcome address and then introduced Lena De Winne, CEO, NGO Asgardia who gave an overview and introduction to the Asgardia initiative. She urged the SGC delegates to contribute to the growing Asgardia movement and shared Asgardia stickers which would no doubt promptly embellish the laptops of many delegates.


Following Lena’s speech, delegates proceeded to practise and polish their final presentation slides. Working Groups took turns to rehearse their presentations at the Horace Lamb Lecture Theatre and benefited from the experienced guidance of mentors Ray Williamson and Carol Carnett.


Coffee break was sponsored by GomSpace.


At 11am, the delegates returned to the Horace Lamb Lecture Theatre. The Vice President and Orion Program Manager, Michael Hawes, engaged the audience in an interactive dialogue; before IAC 2018 representatives Birgit Kinkeldey and Sarah Rietmuller introduced SGC delegates to the programme lined up for next year’s IAC. Lucky audience members who answered the question “what is unique about Bremen” won prizes ranging from a Werder Bremen football to a bottle of Becks beer.


Delegates spent most of their time on Day Three preparing the slides and the final presentation. At 3pm, delegates returned to the lecture theatre after a coffee break for the final SGC presentations.


The Space Transportation Working Group focusing on The Workhorse of Future Space (supported by Blue Origin) discussed how to encourage development of space transportation. The Working Group proposed, inter alia, that an SGAC Project Group focused on space transportation would be beneficial to growing awareness among young professionals. The Working Group also suggested that a dedicated NGO should be responsible for spreading education about international export regulations.


The Space Exploration Working Group focusing on Expanding Global Partnerships Off Earth (sponsored by NASA AES) considered potential partnerships that could flow out of the Deep Space Gateway. The Working Group saw NASA’s future role as a ‘Gatekeeper’ in a partnership governance in which established and emerging players must include developing partners in projects.


The Space Diplomacy Working Group focusing on Space Resources Governance (sponsored by Secure World Foundation (SWF)) considered space mining governance. Among the Working Group’s recommendations are granting privileged access to scientific ventures (as opposed to commercial ventures) and encourage states to create licensing regimes for space resource mining and to create a UN body to coordinate such licensing regimes.


The Space Law Working Group focusing on the Outer Space Treaty (sponsored by Defence Science and Technology Group, Australia) recommended that (i) the law of armed conflict be extended to outer space (i.e. civil infrastructure should not be targeted in time of military conflict in space); (ii) a notification regime be set up for space debris prevention; and (iii) a draft protocol be proposed which includes explicit language that citizens of OST state parties are entitled to any space resource obtained or extracted. The Working Group progressed on the drafting of potential protocol language.


The Space Innovation Working Group focusing on Moon Village the Next Frontier for Innovation (sponsored by ESA) discussed the roadmap for developing a Moon Village. Among the recommendations were (i) the development of capabilities to provide data and energy on the moon; (ii) professional marketing campaigns; and (iii) identifying a clear message for the Moon Village. “Make the moon great again” was jokingly highlighted during the presentation.


Finally, the Space Technologies Working Group focusing on Laser Space Communications (sponsored by NASA SCaN) wrapped up the final presentations by proposing an interoperable system for laser communication standards. Among the recommendations were (i) having stakeholder meetings in different regions to bring as many people into the movement as possible and (ii) encouraging smaller partners to contribute through means including financing.


Executive Director Minoo Rathnasabapathy and SGC 2017 Event Manager Arnau Pons Lorente then delivered a final thank you speech to delegates. Deputy Event Manager Florian Ruhhammer was officially appointed as the Event Manager for SGC 2018. The delegates then proceeded for the much-anticipated Closing Dinner.


The Closing Dinner provided a fitting end to the 17th Space Generation Congress. The Space Generation Advisory Council would like to extend its sincere appreciation to its sponsors and supporters that made the Congress possible, including the organising team that worked so diligently over the last few months. A special thanks is due to Florian Ruhhammer and Arnau Pons Lorente, who spent countless hours of the past year preparing for the event and seeing it through to completion. And of course, a very special thank you to the Minoo Rathnasabapathy, Clémentine Decoopman, Ali Nasseri and Alexander Gibson.


We look forward to the 17th Space Generation Congress in Bremen, Germany in 2018!




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