31 January  2024

M-Building, Vienna International Centre (VIC)

On the margins of the 61st session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee

Hybrid meeting (MS Teams)

The 22nd meeting of the Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (SMPAG) took place on 31 January 2024, on the margins of the 61st session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee (29 January – 9 February). The meeting was chaired by the European Space Agency (ESA), the current SMPAG Chair (2023-2025) and supported by the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) as the secretariat. 

Adoption of the agenda and introduction of participants

The revised agenda was adopted. The following agencies and institutions were represented at the meeting: ASI, CNES, CNSA, Czechia, DLR, ESA, FFG, ISA, JAXA, KASI, NASA, UKSA. Representative of IAWN, ex officio member, participated at the meeting. Representatives from the SMPAG Legal Working Group also attended the meeting. The meeting was also attended by observers for CSA and ISRO, and by the observer for EAS (European Astronomical Society). Upon invitation by the SMPAG Chair and in agreement with SMPAG heads of delegations, Dr. Felicitas Mokler, astrophysicist and scientific journalist also attended the meeting, following the signature of a non-disclosure agreement.

1) SMPAG Status and General Items, Membership

SMPAG Chair, Detlef Koschny on behalf of ESA, presented the status of SMPAG work and the way forward. All SMPAG documents and meeting minutes are available at

SMPAG Membership: The SMPAG Chair informed that the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) applied for membership with SMPAG. The Letter of Application by CSA, dated 11 December 2023, was shared with the SMPAG delegation. The CSA representative, Viqar Abassi, presented CSA activities related to SMPAG work.  

Decision: The SMPAG unanimously agreed to admit CSA as SMPAG member, bringing the number of members to 19.

The member status is available at ISRO reiterated its intention to join SMPAG as member, following the completion of internal procedures.

SMPAG Observer status: The SMPAG Chair informed about the request from the European Astronomical Society (EAS) for observer status, expressed in a letter by EAS dated 17 January 2024. The representatives of EAS, Sara Lucatello and Rudolf Albrecht, presented the activities of EAS.

Action: SMPAG decided to address this and future application for observer status with SMPAG after considering the SMPAG Terms of Reference, v.2 of 13 September 2019, where observer status has not been duly reflected.

2) Report by IAWN

IAWN Coordinator, Kelly Fast, NASA PDCO, reported on the status of IAWN since the last SMPAG meeting. There are currently 56 signatories to the IAWN Statement of Intent from over 25 countries. Further information on how to join IAWN and about the IAWN’s past and on-going observation campaigns is available at the IAWN website at The IAWN Coordinator informed that 2024 is the 10th anniversary of the first IAWN meeting. The executive session on 30 January 2024 addressed the future of the IAWN Steering Committee by detailing, for the Terms of Reference, the core IAWN capabilities to be represented by a geographically and organizationally diverse representation from among IAWN signatories. This will be communicated to IAWN signatories for additional or expanded applications. The IAWN Coordinator  also informed SMPAG about impact of small asteroid 2024 BX1 on 21 January 2024. The asteroid posed no threat since it was so small at ~1 meter in size. It was an excellent demonstration of planetary defence capabilities: find, track and accurately predict impact location. Many watched the impact as it happened, or caught the view on Berlin-area webcams. The presentation on the IAWN Status is available here.

3) Updates on on-going and planed missions relevant for planetary defence: SMPAG exchanged information on the on-going and planned activities of its members.

4) Update on Apophis-related missions (All)

  • Information on Apophis-related missions were shared by ESA (here), CNES (here) and NASA (here).
  • Information was given on the upcoming workshop: Apophis T-5 Years: Knowledge Opportunity for the Science of Planetary Defense, at ESTEC, 22-23 April 2024.
  • Action: SMPAG will continue to discuss and explore synergies on Apophis fly-by missions.
  • Statement: SMPAG encourages bilateral and multilateral efforts to build upon the unique opportunity of a close approach of Apophis and acknowledges the importance of missions to Apophis for full characterization of the asteroid prior to its close approach to Earth as important demonstration of capabilities for planetary defence. This is an opportunity and call for partnering on potential Apophis missions, including the ones that can be re-purposed prior to close approach to support the science behind this close approach, as well as raise awareness among the public and decision-makers.  

5) SMPAG Hypothetical Asteroid Impact Exercise (ASI)

The SMPAG first hypothetical asteroid impact threat exercise, launched in 2021 under the lead of ASI and Politecnico of Milano, members of SMPAG, in collaboration with ESA, is intended to test the Group’s real-world capabilities to support planetary defence in case of a real threat. The SMPAG Hypothetical Asteroid Impact Exercise lead, Camilla Colombo, ASI, reported on the status of the exercise, available here.  

  • Sprint 1 (completed) focused on the national organisation and coordination and on defining the lists of tasks to be performed in response to a real threat scenario. To harmonise the national (SMPAG-level) efforts into a SMPAG coordinated action this must be organised at communication level, technical level, decision level.
  • Sprint  2 (on-going) is focussing on discussing how the coordination is done among different SMPAG delegations.
  • Sprint 3 will deal with communication and coordination issues within SMPAG and will link with IAWN as well.

Actions/Next steps:

  1. Any outstanding comments to the final report of Sprint 1 should be sent to the lead, Camilla Colombo, by Monday, 11 March, thereafter it will be made available on
  2. Monthly telecons will be held on the outcomes of Sprint 2 (tasks 4 and 5), organized by the lead (ASI). Information will also be sent out by secretariat to the heads of delegations and SMPAG Legal WG Coordinator. Reminder: SMPAG agreed that the report for Sprint 2 should be reviewed by the SMPAG Legal Working Group for legal implications before it gets published.
  3. SMPAG agreed to participate actively at the 2025 IAA Planetary Defense Conference hypothetical impact scenario. Richard Moissl, ESA was nominated as focal point.

6) SMPAG Legal Working Group (SMPAG LWG)

SMPAG noted that no comments were received to the proposed amendments of the SMPAG Legal WG ToR v.1 of 11 October 2017 that were discussed at the 21st meeting.

Action: SMPAG unanimously adopted the revised ToR for SMPAG LWG, now available as v.2 as of 11 October 2023 here.

Coordinator for the SMPAG LWG, Alissa Haddaji, further informed SMPAG about the status of nominations for SMPAG LWG members and proposals for workplan of the SMPAG Legal. The status is available here.

Action: SMPAG delegations are welcome to still nominate members to SMPAG LWG (max 2 per delegation). The nominations should be sent to SMPAG Chair, cc secretariat, and SMPAG Legal WG coordinator Alissa Haddaji (

7) SMPAG Terms of Reference

SMPAG agreed to consider possible amendments to the ToR v.2 as of 13 September 2019,

related to section 4c (clarity of text as regards to information flow) and on the status of

observers with SMPAG.

Action: DLR to take the lead on this and present possible amendments to the SMPAG ToR on these matters, for consideration by SMPAG at its 23rd meeting. The proposed amendments are to be shared in advance of the 23rd meeting by the secretariat.

8) Proposal for UN-designated international year of planetary defence 2029

  • SMPAG Chair and IAWN Coordinator submitted to the 61st session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee (STSC), the conference room paper containing information on an initiative for IYPD 2029, available here
  • In addition, STSC was informed about guidelines for declaration of such a year, available here.
  • The Subcommittee recommended to the Committee that 2029 be declared UN-designated international year of asteroid awareness and planetary defence, dedicated to a worldwide campaign to raise awareness about asteroids and to highlight the collaborative efforts being undertaken by the Committee to mitigate the potential hazard posed by the impact on the Earth of NEOs, and as an excellent opportunity for a global educational campaign about near-Earth objects. In that regard, the Subcommittee took note of the guidelines for the proclamation of international years, contained in the annex to Economic and Social Council resolution 1980/67 and related General Assembly resolutions 53/199 and 61/185.
  • Next steps: COPUOS to consider this recommendation, interested States, in cooperation with COPUOS Secretariat, to draft a separate resolution for international year.

9) Workplan items (see annex)

Under this agenda item, lead agencies of workplan items reported on the status of the progress. Updates were given for the following SMPAG workplan items, presentations on the status of workplan items are available at:

10) AOB

  • The 2025 IAA PDC is planned for 4-9 May 2025 in Stellenbosch, South Africa.
  • SMPAG Chair informed SMPAG on joint IAWN/SMPAG/UNOOSA paper submitted to Nature journal on PD.
  • Next meeting (23rd SMPAG): 10 and 11 October 2024, at the University of Politecnico, Milano, hosted by ASI.

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Status of Workplan items

5.1 Criteria and thresholds for impact response actions (NASA): Completed. Final report SMPAG-RP-003, v 1.0 (Oct 2018) (note that this is still v.1., not v.2, as previously recorded in minutes).

5.2 Mitigation mission types and technologies to be considered (UKSA): No update.

5.3 Mapping of threat scenarios to mission types (ESA):  In progress (a dedicated person for this task is expected to be on-board soon to take up the task)

5.4 Reference missions for different NEO threat scenarios (ASI): ASI presented the case of the 2023 PDC hypothetical impact exercise, as reference mission, with the aim to possibly automatize the procedures and calculations. 

5.5 A plan for action in case of a credible threat (NASA/ESA):  Update will be done after SMPAG exercise is completed, to take stock of the exercise. Draft report is available here.

Action: A shared drive for this item will be made available by ESA (similarly to IADC Space Debris Exercise) where all information on the exercise can be made available.

5.6 Communication guidelines in case of a credible threat (NASA): If real preparations for a planetary defence mission start, special communication guidelines might be required. As communication is mainly addressed by IAWN, this activity could be combined with an IAWN activity on communication.

Action: by the IAWN Steering Committee – possibly a dedicated communications workshop. Update will be done after SMPAG exercise is completed, to take stock of the exercise.

5.7 Produce a roadmap for future work on planetary defence (DLR): This is a living document - SMPAG-RP-001, v. 4.0, 2 March 2023

Action: SMPAG members are invited to look at the conclusions of this latest v.4 and provide comments.

5.8 Consequences, including failure, of NEO mitigation space missions (ESA/FFG): In progress.

5.9. Criteria for deflection targeting (ROSA): No update.

5.10 Study of the nuclear device option: A compilation of existing literature that addresses issues related to NEO mitigation using a nuclear device is ongoing. SMPAG members are invited to provide additional references (publication references and abstracts/summaries) and a text for an introduction and background information. Action: SMPAG Chair to take the lead, also in cooperation with SMPAG Legal WG.

5.11 Toolbox for a characterisation payload (CNES):  the preliminary table of existing instruments has been made available here. It was noted that Apophis mission proposals are also relevant for this Toolkit. Action: Continue to update the NEO Toolkit.