Press Releases

    Background Release

     UNIS/OS/260
    6 June 2003

    UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space to Hold Forty-Sixth Session in Vienna, 11-20 June 2003

    The Implementation of UNISPACE III Recommendations, a Draft Resolution on the Concept of the "Launching State" and Other Issues Are to Be Discussed

    VIENNA, 6 June (UN Information Service) -- At the upcoming forty-sixth session of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) two main topics are to be considered. Firstly, the implementation of the recommendations of the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III).  Secondly, issues raised in the reports of the two Subcommittees - the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee and the Legal Subcommittee -- at their sessions earlier this year, in particular the use of nuclear power sources in Outer Space, problems related to space debris, and a proposed draft resolution on the concept of the "launching State".

    COPUOS was set up by the General Assembly in 1959 to review the scope of international cooperation in peaceful uses of Outer Space, to devise programmes in this field to be undertaken under United Nations auspices, to encourage continued research and the dissemination of information on Outer Space matters, and to study legal problems arising from the exploration of Outer Space. COPUOS and its two Subcommittees each meet annually to consider questions put before them by the General Assembly, reports submitted to them and issues raised by the Member States. The Committee and the Subcommittees, working on the basis of consensus, make recommendations to the General Assembly.

    Report on Implementation of UNISPACE III Recommendations

    The Committee is preparing a report to the General Assembly for a "plus 5" review of the implementation of the recommendations of UNISPACE III, which will take place in 2004. The report will be based on the input of action teams, UN system organizations and NGOs working in areas related to Outer Space. UNISPACE III was the third large United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, held in Vienna in 1999. The Conference identified specific ways in which space science and technology could help solve problems on Earth. The UNISPACE III recommendations included using remote sensing to protect the environment; facilitating and utilising communications; improving and using positioning and location capabilities; furthering knowledge and building capacity; enhancing education and training opportunities for youth; and promoting international cooperation, particularly in the development and exchange of technology.

    The Use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space

    Another important issue that is likely to be raised, based on the report of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, is the use of nuclear power sources in Outer Space. The Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, during its session earlier this year, adopted a four-year work plan for the period 2003-2006, aimed at starting the process of developing an international framework of goals and recommendations for the safety of nuclear power sources in Outer Space, in order to provide a common basis for the safety of such applications, and to enhance confidence of the international community that States are adhering to the appropriate safety objectives.

    Space debris

    Included in the report of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee will be the issue of space debris. Space debris is made up of retired satellites and other fragments of various origins, and could potentially cause problems for future space missions - in particular through the danger of collision. This is particularly the case where nuclear power sources are on board. The Subcommittee, during its last session, began a review of proposals for mitigating space debris, which were presented to the Subcommittee by the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee.

    United Nations Programme on Space Applications

    The Committee will consider the review of the United Nations Programme on Space Applications contained in the report of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee. In particular, the Committee will consider a report on the activities of the International Satellite System for Search and Rescue. The system is designed to provide distress alert and location data to assist search and rescue operations, and has been successfully in use since 1982, saving several thousands of lives worldwide.

    Proposal for a Draft Resolution on the Concept of the "launching State"

    The legal concept of the "launching State" is important because some of the existing five United Nations treaties governing the peaceful uses of Outer Space impose significant obligations and responsibilities on the State that launched an object into Outer Space. These obligations are related particularly to registration of objects launched into Outer Space, and to liability for damage caused by such objects. A review of the concept has become particularly relevant in light of increasing international cooperation in space activities, as well as the involvement of non-governmental entities in launches. The Legal Subcommittee during its last session examined a proposal for a draft resolution on the concept of the "launching State". The Committee will review the proposed resolution during the upcoming session, for possible submission to the General Assembly later this year.

    Space and Society

    The Committee will continue to look at the different ways in which Outer Space affects life on Earth, in areas like agriculture, communications, navigation, environmental protection and disaster management.

    Candidature for Membership

    The Libyan Arab Jamahiriya has submitted its candidature for membership of the Committee, endorsed by the Group of African states. The Committee will consider the candidature at the upcoming session.

    Membership of the Committee

    The Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space currently has the following Member States: Albania, Algeria, 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 and 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