Every year, generally in early October, the IAF together with its associates the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) and the International Institute of Space Law (IISL), holds the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) which is hosted by one of the national societies, a member of the IAF. It lasts one week and has been held every year since 1950. It is open to all.
The IAC is a major annual milestone where people can meet, exchange, learn, promote and summarise activity over the year, celebrate success and share lessons and experience.
It encourages the advancement of knowledge about space and it is attended by representatives from the space industry, space users, space policy makers, students, young professionals, researchers and academicians.
An IAC has a Technical Programme (papers written by the space community, approved during the Spring Meeting held in March of the IAF’s International Programme Committee and presented in a series of IAC symposia and sessions), a Public Programme (plenaries and highlight lectures) and an Exhibition (a trade show where organisations have stands, conduct events and network with one another, the public and the media).
Various fringe events accompany every IAC. Typically, the UN/IAF Workshop is held, the IAA hosts an Academy Day, the Space Generation Annual Congress takes place, Members of Parliament meet, an outreach programme is set up and numerous social events are organised. A high-level Opening Ceremony formally begins an IAC and a Gala Dinner concludes it.
A DVD containing copies of the Technical Programme papers is provided to all Congress participants. The IAF maintains an on-line archive of past Congress papers and presentations.