The National Space Science Agency (NSSA) represented the Kingdom of Bahrain at the 71st International Space Congress (IAC 2020), which was held online for the first time by the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) on 12–14 October 2020. NSSA received an invitation from the IAF to participate in that important international activity. It was represented by Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Mohamed Ebrahim Al-Aseeri; Board of Directors Adviser, Mohamed Jasim Al-Othman; and Chief of Strategic Planning and Projects, Amal AlBinali. Several NSSA engineers and technicians participated in many relevant discussion seminars and workshops.

The International Astronautical Federation (IAF) is considered the largest scientific forum specialized in space science. The conference was held this year under the theme ‘IAF Connecting @ll Space People’. IAF aims to bridging distances between all those concerned with the space science sector and its applications and to discuss the latest developments in this field and the most important challenges. One of the major challenges this year was the difficulties the sector faced under the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 13,000 participants from 135 countries around the world took part in the conference. They unanimously agreed that the global space community confirmed its flexibility and connection more than ever in the light of these unprecedented times.

The conference included virtual exhibitions by major space agencies and companies specializing in space industries and technologies. The conference presented in its virtual version more than 1,300 recorded presentations in various aspects of space and its sciences, from which more than 21,000 persons and agencies benefited. The conference comprised an elite group of lecturers from the most prestigious international agencies and agencies operating in the field of space science and applications, including NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA), the Russian Space Agency (ROSCOSMOS), the Italian Space Agency (ASI), Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), the United Arab Emirates Agency, the South African National Space Agency, (SANSA), the Norwegian Space Agency, the German Space Centre (DLR), China Corporation for Geospatial Science and Technology (CAST), Airbus, Lockheed Martin, Blue Origin and other organizations specialized in the space sector.

To this end, Amal Al-Binali stated: “The conference included a number of scientific and research sessions and events related to how international agencies engaged in the space science and applications deal with the pandemic. It specifically highlighted the success stories, including but not limited to the continuing launch of satellites, chiefly ‘The Hope Probe’ within the deadline, despite the closure of airports and the imposition of curfews in many countries. The emergence of digital transformation in this vital sector is strong and growing, in addition to the utilization of technologies related to space applications within research to detect the virus, and many other examples. NSSA is constantly keen to participate in the implementation of projects of common interest, at various levels of representation to ensure that its members gain experience and to keep them acquainted with the latest developments in specialization and with its keenness to build national capabilities in the space sector, its sciences and multiple applications, in an effort to implement its strategic plan approved by the Council of Ministers for the period 2019-2023, which comes in line with the Government’s work program and in a way that achieves Bahrain’s Economic Vision of 2030.”

The discussion also covered the initiatives presented to deal with outer space waste by following its movements and by the utilization of artificial intelligence to avoid potential collisions between satellites.

AlBinali added: “Such conferences contribute to benefiting from global experiences and enhancing cooperation between space agencies through the establishment of partnerships for the implementation of projects of common interest, which the agency is constantly keen to participate in at various levels to ensure that its members gain experience and knowledge about the latest developments in their respective specializations and keenness to build national capabilities in the space sector, its sciences and multiple applications, in pursuit of implementing its strategic plan approved by the Council of Ministers for the period 2019–2023, which comes in line with the Government’s work program and in a way that achieves Bahrain’s Economic Vision 2030.’