Bridging the Space Divide in Emerging Countries

Summary of IAF Global Conference of Space for Emerging Countries (GLEC2019)

Hello! I’m Steven George, an MSc student at Cranfield University studying Astronautics and Space Engineering. This article describes my experience at the Global Conference of Space for Emerging Countries (GLEC2019) which I attended as part of my individual thesis. This was the first high-profile conference that I have attended since being introduced into the Space Industry back in October 2018. The first of its kind, GLEC2019 was held in Marrakech, Morocco on 24th  – 26th April 2019. The conference discussed the benefits of space technology and applications towards the socio-economic development in emerging countries and how as an industry we might develop an infrastructure to support this.

For my thesis I am contributing towards the G-CLASS (Geosynchronous – Continental Land Atmosphere Sensing system) mission proposal for ESA’s Earth Explorer Program 10. Its primary objective is to monitor the daily water cycle over Africa which has the potential of significant socio-economic benefits at continental, national and local scales. GLEC2019 not only provided a great research and learning opportunity, but also provided the context and platform to make my first steps in my career ambition to specialise in Earth Observation and combine it with my passion for supporting emerging countries.

The conference was split into 6 sessions;

1.     Benefits of Space Technology and Applications towards the Socio-Economic Development;

  • Agency perspective
  • Industry perspective

2.     Financial Models and Resourcing

3.     Technology and Skills Development

4.     Base Infrastructure Requirements

5.     Space Industry Development and Support

6.     Legal and Policy

The discussions took a broad perspective and looked at the bigger picture which gave insight and advise for both sides: developed countries and emerging countries entering the space sector. Each session was broken down into a keynote speaker followed by an extensive panel of high-profile individuals whom discussed their respective topics. During the three-day conference, the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC) hosted a seminar and workshop where the audience participated in deriving some recommendations on the above topics. The discussions and results from the workshops are expected to be complied into a technical report for the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) October 2019. In light of inspiring people; General Charles. F. Bolden, Former NASA Administrator and Astronaut made a skype call appearance as a keynote speaker and participated in the discussion panel.

Image credit: IAF (Top), Azercosmos (Left), Steven George (Middle), Remco Timmermans (Right)

Following the discussions and results of GLEC2019, there is a new perspective and initiative in space for supporting emerging countries in their socio-economic development and their ambitions to develop their own space programs. All participants and guest speakers envision a future where emerging countries capitalise on the downstream applications of space towards the country’s specific needs. Similarly, emerging countries also provide the opportunity to revise the current industries infrastructure and do it differently, learning from previous lessons; emerging countries are starting from a blank canvas. The conference was also a very fruitful opportunity to network with some very high-profile individuals, including ministers from developed and developing countries.

The International Astronautical Federation (IAF) are the professional body that organises large conferences like this one. To find out more, visit their website at: Whilst GLEC2019 was the first of its kind to focus on emerging countries, an outcome of the conference was the high expectation to see similarly related presence of this topic at future conferences. In particular, the International Astronautical Congress (IAC).

Whilst I was in the minority as a student, conferences like this bring together a humble yet accommodating community; the nature of the industry runs on collaboration after all. The space industry harbours endless amount of opportunities, just like GLEC2019, not just for senior authorities but for students and early career professionals as well if you have the ‘get out and get it’ mentality.

Steven George

MSc Astronautics & Space Engineering

Cranfield University

[email protected]


Steven George

MSc Student at Cranfield University studying Astronautics & Space Engineering

Something Wrong?

Are we missing something or spouting nonsense? Let us know!

This site is a work in progress and we're always looking to improve it.

To get in touch, visit our contact us page.