Press Releases

    UNIS/OS/244
    15 April 2002

    OUTER SPACE LEGAL SUBCOMMITTEE CONCLUDES
    FORTY-FIRST SESSION IN VIENNA, 2-12 APRIL 2002

    Endorses Conclusions on the Concept of the "Launching State"

    VIENNA, 15 April (UN Information Service) -- Review of the concept of the "launching State" and Considerations of the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment and the Preliminary Draft Protocol on Matters Specific to Space Assets were among the main topics discussed at the forty-first session of the Legal Subcommittee of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COUPOS) meeting here from 2 to 12 April 2002.

    Other topics on the agenda included: matters relating to the definition and delimitation of outer space and information on the activities of international organizations relating to space law.

    Concept of the "Launching State"

    The "launching State" is an important concept in space law and is used in two of the United Nations treaties on outer space: the Liability Convention and the Registration Convention. Among other things, it helps to identify States liable for damage caused by space objects under the Liability Convention, as well as States responsible for registering satellites with the United Nations under the Registration Convention.

    The Subcommittee considered the item on "Review of the concept of the ‘launching State’" and endorsed conclusions that had been developed by a Working Group, which had carried out a three-year work plan on the issue from 2000 to 2002. In 2002, the final year of the work plan, the Subcommittee reviewed measures to increase adherence to and promote the full application of the Liability Convention and the Registration Convention.

    The Working Group recommended that States conducting space activities consider steps to implement national laws to authorize and provide continuing supervision of the activities of their nationals in outer space as well as to implement their international obligations under the Liability and Registration Conventions.

    In order to increase the consistency and predictability of national space laws and help avoid gaps in the implementation of the treaties, the Working Group noted that harmonizing voluntary practices could be considered on a bilateral or multilateral basis, or on a global basis through the United Nations. In practical terms, this might enable States involved in a launch to reduce insurance costs and regulatory burdens for private industry in their countries, as well as lower regulatory costs for the governments.

    Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment

    The Subcommittee considered the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment and the Preliminary Draft Protocol on Matters Specific to Space Assets. The Convention and accompanying Draft Protocol aim to create a system of international interests in spacecraft, for instance by establishing an international system for registering these interests. Among other things, this should make it easier to secure financing for satellites.

    The Convention was opened for signature on 16 November 2001 following a diplomatic conference in Cape Town, South Africa. The Preliminary Draft Protocol on Matters Specific to Space Property is being considered by the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (Unidroit), which will transmit the text to Governments to be considered at a Committee of Governmental Experts in late 2002.

    Two major issues relating to the preliminary draft protocol are identifying a suitable organization to serve as "Supervisory Authority" under the protocol, and the relationship between the terms of the preliminary draft protocol and the rights and obligations of States under the United Nations treaties on outer space.

    Definition and Delimitation of Outer Space

    The Subcommittee considered matters relating to definition and delimitation of outer space with some delegations expressing the view that there was a need to clearly define outer space, which was common to all States, to delineate it from airspace, which fell within the sovereignty of individual States. However, others argued that it was not necessary to develop any definition or delimitation of outer space when the absence of such definition had not resulted in any legal or practical problems and it had not obstructed the development of activities in either airspace or outer space.

    Membership

    The Subcommittee, like COPOUS, its parent Committee, has the following member States:

    Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam.

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    For more information visit the web site
    of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs at

    http://www.oosa.unvienna.org