The 47th IAF Congress, Beijing, China


This years' International Astronautical Federation (IAF) Congress, the 47th annual gathering of scientists in the field of astronautics from all over the world, had as its theme "enlarging the scope of space applications." The host organization for the Beijing meeting was the Chinese Society of Astronautics. Over 900 scientists from 51 countries attended the event. Although Asia was well represented with delegates from Cambodia (2), China (107), the Fiji Islands (1), India (7), Indonesia (6), Japan (98), Korea (3), Laos (1), Malaysia (2), Pakistan (3), Philippines (2), Singapore (1) and Sri Lanka (2) the predominance of attendees and presenters were from the West - US (198), UK (31), France (121), Germany (83), the Netherlands (30) and Russian (68). Following an opening session held in the Great Hall of the People where Jiang Zemin, the President of China, addressed the gathering, a number of concurrent sessions were conducted over 5 days. These included: Astrodynamics Symposium, Symposium on Earth Observations, Space and Natural Disaster Reduction Symposium, IAF/IAA Symposium on Life Sciences, Materials and Structures Symposium, Microgravity Sciences and Processes Symposium, Satellite Communications Symposium, Space and Education Symposium, Space Exploration Symposium, Space Power Symposium, Space Propulsion Symposium, Space Stations Symposium, Space Systems Symposium, Space Transportation Symposium, History of Astronautics Symposium, International Space Plans and Policies Symposium, Small Satellite Missions Symposium and Advances in Materials Processing Symposium. As always, this years' IAF Congress was an excellent opportunity to meet with colleagues, make new acquaintances, conduct business and obtain an overview of the status of worldwide research in astronautics.

Astronautics in Asia

Small Satellite Plans and Programs:

The National Space Development Agency (NASDA) of Japan has joined the "faster, cheaper, better" bandwagon in its Lidar Engineering Test Satellite (LETS) program. The LETS mission is to obtain atmospheric lidar measurements from space. Only one such measurement system has flown previously on the Space Shuttle. LETS will have a Mie scattering lidar and will be launched on either a J-1 or H-2 rocket. NASDA's near term goal is to establish lidar remote sensing techniques , verify components such as laser-emitting devices and detectors and development of a low cost satellite bus.

China has plans to field two satellites as part of a nationwide seismic precursory data monitoring network. These will utilize small satellite technology to transmit sensor data to regional processing centers with data exchange across the country. The data will be used for intermediate, short term and immediate earthquake prediction based on surface temperature changes which reflect pressure build up.

Prof Wang of the Harbin Institute of Technology, Beijing briefed a small sat concept for a high resolution optical remote sensing system. This would consist of a CCD camera mounted on a telescope with a 1.72 deg field of view at 630 km altitude for 1.5m resolution. This project is in the conceptual phase with no budget yet identified.

Thailand is working through Surrey Satellite Technology, Ltd of the University of Surrey, Guildford, UK to field their first microsatellite, TMSAT, for communications and earth observation. TMSAT has objectives of three band multispectral earth observation with 100m for meteorological applications, digital store and forward email capability and technology experiments including autonomous GPS navigation and digital signal processing. TMSAT will employ Surrey's modular microsat platform with gravity gradient stabilizing to better than 1 deg pointing accuracy, GaAs solar arrays, GPS positioning and on-board data handling. Launch is scheduled using a Russian Zenit from Baikanoor in July 1997. The ground station will be located outside Bangkok. Thai scientists are working alongside Surrey personnel in Guildford to build and deploy the satellite. Surrey Satellite Technology, Ltd is currently producing small sats for Malaysia (MYSAT) and Singapore (U.SAT-12) and has previously launched the BADR-1 for Pakistan.

Thailand is also working with Canada as an international partner to launch two Thai Remote Sensing Small Satellites (TRSS) before 2000. This will be a contracted effort managed by the National Research Council of Thailand to produce two satellites weighing less than 400kg which will assist in Thailand's management of their natural resources and environment.

Space Propulsion and Transportation:

The Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics briefed two computer aided design tools developed at the university. The Solid Rocket Motor Micro-Computer Integrated Design System (SRM-MIDS) is in the preliminary stages. An advanced SRM-MIDS is being developed in conjunction with the Shanghai Aerospace Bureau. The Mass Characteristic Analysis System (MCAS) is a finite element model used to perform launch vehicle configuration design, load design, strength analysis, stiffness analysis and stability analysis. Currently this program is for internal use only; it is not available commercially.

China has plans to develop an aerospace plane, the Ekranoplane. The current concept calls for a 2000 ton vehicle which will fly at 500-600 km/hr in the vicinity of the sea surface with the capability of flying out of surface effect for a short time. Both unmanned and manned modes are planned.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Nagoya, Japan is developing a hypersonic flight experiment vehicle, Hyflex. This vehicle is designed to collect data to support 2000+ transportation and reentry systems. Temperature sensors will be carried in the carbon-carbon nose cap and ceramic tiles, and air data sensors will fly in the nose cap.

Space Debris:

NASDA has a number of ongoing projects aimed at assessing the debris environment and developing mitigation methods. Kyushu University, Fujuoka, Japan is modeling the geosynchronous debris environment. Breakup in near GEO is modeled and collision damage to operational satellites is predicted. NASDA in conjunction with the Japan Society for Aeronautical and Space Sciences (JSASS) has initiated a multi-year study to consider a space debris observation system. Feasibility of observation of 1 cm size objects in the GEO domain has been shown and a candidate observation orbit based on optical observation detection capability, orbit determination accuracy, sensor hardware and satellite bus system.

Beijing Institute of Spacecraft System Engineering (CAST) has developed a breakup model and has completed studies of debris impact effect on spacecraft.

Materials and Structures:

The Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), Kanagawa, Japan is studying 3-D carbon-carbon composites for tip turbine structure for the ATREX engine.

The National Cheng Kung University of Tainan, Taiwan, China has designed a neural controller for vibration suppression of smart structures. The design employs a feed forward neural network for vibration suppression of smart structures that is effective in damping control and robust to structured/unstructured uncertainties.

Space Systems:

NASDA, Tsukuba City, Japan has several ongoing projects to measure space environmental effects. They have been concentrating on space radiation and atomic oxygen with the Technical Data Acquisition (TEDA) experiment looking at effects on spacecraft. The TEDA was launched in 1990 and is monitoring the South Atlantic anomaly. They have a concept for the Mission Demonstration Satellite (MDS-1) scheduled for launch in 2000 which would measure space environmental effects on commercial devices such as semiconductors, solar cells, etc.


The India Institute of Technology in Kampur, India has proposed a satellite attitude maneuver through tether concept. Satellite would carry two tethers which would act to restore the satellite to an equilibrium position when a change in orientation puts the tethers out of equilibrium. They are currently conducting studies to determine the minimum tether length required and performing stability analyses.

History and Future of the Space Program in China

Wednesday evening's special event at the 47th IAF Congress was a presentation on China's space program. A panel consisting of Chinese Space dignitaries including Li Jianzhong, President of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, Prof Xu Fuxiang, President of the Chinese Academy of Space Technology and Chen Fangyun, Transmission, Tracking and Control expert discussed China's past, present and future in space. 1996 marks the 40th anniversary of China's space program. From the first sounding rocket launch in 1960 to the first satellite launch in 1970, China's space program has continued to grow. A series of Long March rockets has been fielded with new development continuing with the LM 3B set to resume operation following analysis of its February failure which resulted in an uncontrolled down range reentry and civilian loss of life. Its next mission will be to launch a recoverable remote sensing satellite. Future development calls for a LM 1D with greater launch capacity. They are actively seeking international exchange and cooperation in new technology areas.

China is aggressively posturing itself as a commercial launch power. Since 1995 nearly half of its launches have been for foreigners. Future plans call for expansion of commercial and broadcast satellite systems, launch of more meteorological satellites, establishment of a natural disaster monitoring system, establishment of a satellite navigation and positioning system, development of a space microgravity resource, and development of small, light and low cost satellites. China also has plans for a manned space flight program.