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Australia rockets to success with IAC 2017

Australia rocketed firmly into the multi-billion-dollar space industry with the hosting of the 68th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Adelaide in September 2017 - the largest conference to be held in Adelaide to date, exceeding delegate attendance by 67 per cent, and the first to be held at the newly expanded Adelaide Convention Centre.



Event: International Astronautical Congress 2017 (IAC2017)
Where: Adelaide, Australia
Flight connection: Adelaide Airport services 10 international airlines, including direct flights from Dubai, Doha, Singapore and Hong Kong.
Venue: Adelaide Convention Centre
When: September 2017
Who: Adelaide Convention Bureau; International Astronautical Federation; Space Industry Association of Australia; All Occasions Management (PCO)
Attendees: 5,000 from more than 60 countries
Theme: Unlocking Imagination, Fostering Innovation and Strengthening Security. 


The Paris-based International Astronautical Federation (IAF) is the world’s leading space advocacy body whose members include all key space agencies, companies, societies, associations and institutes across 66 countries.

The annual conference of the world’s ‘space family’ is the largest gathering of the space industry in the world. Each year, the IAC changes country, theme and local organiser. The Adelaide Convention Bureau, in conjunction with the Space Industry Association of Australia, commenced researching and pursuing this congress almost ten years ago. In 2014 the announcement was made that Adelaide was to host IAC2017, defeating Germany, Turkey and the United States. 

IAC 2017 Opening Ceremony at Adelaide Convention Centre, Adelaide, SA © Simon Casson Photography


The program for IAC2017 was extremely complex, and used every part of the new East Wing of the Adelaide Convention Centre. In addition to breakfasts, lunches, dinners and networking sessions, there were eight plenary sessions, several highlight lectures, and more than 250 technical sessions, with at least twenty occurring concurrently each day. There was also an exhibition where 80 exhibitors from the space sector showcased their latest offerings and developments.

“As the first major event since completing our redevelopment, IAC was always going to be a great test to our team. Utilising every inch of area we had, in various configurations, it was a great demonstration of the flexible nature of our venue, and I’m thrilled to report that all ran smoothly with positive feedback received from the organisers and delegates alike,” said Alec Gilbert, Chief Executive of the Adelaide Convention Centre


The program featured many highlights including a presentation by SpaceX founder, Elon Musk, on ‘Making Humans a Multi-Planetary Species’. Lockheed Martin unveiled an update to their plans for human exploration of Mars in the 2020s; and many new business opportunities and relationships forged during the week-long event, such as Italy’s largest privately-owned space company SITAEL signing a letter of intent with local start up Inovar to jointly establish a multi-million-dollar company in South Australia.

The IAC2017 conference is testament to the capability of Australia’s business events industry to deliver an extraordinary event that exceeds expectations. When you pair these attributes with Australia’s beautiful landscapes, unique wildlife and excellent food and wine, it’s not surprising that the appetite for Australia as a leading business events destination continues to grow.


As the host city, the event brought greater visibility to Adelaide’s expertise in the space sector, complemented by community outreach programs. More than 700 school children attended the large interactive exhibition in a dedicated event space; while 3,500 members of the public attended the ‘open’ session of the exhibition on Friday morning. The State Library of South Australia staged an exhibition titled ‘From Outback to Outer Space: Woomera 1955-1980’ and the South Australian Museum hosted a ‘Spectacular Space’ exhibition.

“This amazing event is the epitome of what hosting conferences is all about. The IAC absolutely captivated the city and in addition to the large economic benefit for tourism operators, it is the value of the incredible legacies that come into play well after the last delegate has returned home that truly highlight the importance of winning these large-scale industry events for South Australia,” said Damien Kitto, CEO of the Adelaide Convention Bureau.


Technical site visits to some of South Australia’s key locations were also arranged including the Woomera Test Range; the Institute for Telecommunications Research at the University of South Australia; Adelaide Planetarium; and an excursion to Stockport Observatory. Several pre-and post-touring options were organised for delegates and their families to take maximum advantage of their stay in Australia, including visits to the Adelaide Hills, the award-winning Barossa Valley wine region; and wildlife-rich Kangaroo Island. Tours to Broken Hill in New South Wales were also arranged for outback astronomy and star gazing.

IAC 2017 Opening Ceremony at Adelaide Convention Centre, Adelaide, SA © Simon Casson


Perhaps more importantly than the immediate benefits bought about by hosting a conference are the legacies they leave. The Australian Federal Government, buoyed by the build up to the event, chose its opening day to announce that Australia will launch its own Space Agency. The South Australian Government also announced that a space industry centre would be established in the state.

In summarising the event, Brett Biddington, CEO of IAC 2017 said: “Adelaide has been a splendid host city for IAC 2017. Its collaborative approach from the City Council, Library and Museum through to the Convention Centre and Convention Bureau have simply been exemplary. Our delegate numbers have by far exceeded our expectations proving that delegates will travel from long distances if the content of the conference is right and for the amazing experiences that Australia offers.  This conference has set the benchmark for IAC events and Adelaide, Australia should be justifiably proud of the legacies it will leave.”