Introduction

The sixth IAASS Conference “safety is not an option”, organized in cooperation with the International Space Safety Foundation (ISSF), is an invitation to reflect and exchange information on a number of topics in space safety and sustainability of national and international interest. The conference is also a forum to promote mutual understanding, trust, and the widest possible professional international cooperation in such matters.The International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety (www.iaass.org) is a non-profit organisation dedicated to furthering international cooperation and scientific advancement in the field of space systems safety. IAASS is a member of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF), and Permanent Observer at the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). The association exists to help shape and advance an international culture of space safety (technical, organisational and socio-political) which would contribute to make space missions, vehicles, stations, extraterrestrial habitats, equipment and payload safer for the general public, ground personnel, crews and flight participants. The association also pursues the safeguarding of the on-orbit environment to allow unimpeded access to space by future generations.

The once exclusive “club” of nations with autonomous sub-orbital and orbital space access capabilities is becoming crowded with new, and ambitious new entrants. Commercial spaceports are being built and are becoming operational.

In the manned spaceflight the historical flights to ISS of the private DragonX and Cygnus spacecraft are finally inaugurating the era of commercial “spaceliners” providing commercial cargo and crew transportation services to orbit.

Besides the national ambitions in space, the international cooperation both civil and commercial is also gaining momentum. The robotic space exploration will accelerate and with it the need to internationally better regulate the necessary usage of nuclear power sources. Space bound systems and aviation traffic will share more and more a crowded airspace, while aviation will increasingly rely on safety-critical services based in near-space.

Finally, most nations own nowadays important space assets, mainly satellites of various kinds and purpose, which as for human missions are under the constant threat of collision with other spacecraft and with the ever increasing number of space debris. Without proactive and courageous initiatives we risk to negate access and use of space to future generations. Awareness is increasing internationally (as solemnly declared since decades in space treaties) that space is a mankind asset and that we all have the duty of caring for it.

The sixth IAASS Conference will in addition dedicate a set of specialised sessions to three topics which need to get better attention in space programs: Space Debris Remediation, International Space Traffic Control, and Commercial Human Spaceflight Safety. Active removal from orbit of “dead” satellites and spent launcher upper stages, and international coordination of space traffic are mandatory for safe orbital operations, and for the safety of the public on ground. Instead the safety of commercial human spaceflight is a critical element for the expansion, and perhaps even continuation, of human spaceflight. The success of commercial spaceflight will be determined by a substantially higher level of safety and not solely by cost reductions. These special sessions will provide participants insight, innovative strategies and open discussion into these important aspects of space safety.