Press Releases

    UNIS/OS/304
    18 April 2005

    Outer Space Legal Subcommittee Concludes 44th Session in Vienna

    Registration Practices for Space Objects Discussed

    VIENNA, 18 April (UN Information Service) -- The practice of States and international organizations in registering space objects and the examination of a preliminary draft protocol on matters specific to space assets were key agenda items discussed by the Legal Subcommittee of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) during its 44th session, held in Vienna from 4 to 15 April 2005.

    Other topics of discussion included the definition and delimitation of outer space, the status and application of the five United Nations treaties on outer space, and matters relating to the character and use of the geostationary orbit. As in previous sessions of the Subcommittee, international organizations reported on their activities relating to space law.

    A symposium, held following the conclusion of the first day of the session, examined recent developments in remote sensing of the Earth from outer space, and discussed whether it would be desirable to review the 1986 United Nations Principles Relating to Remote Sensing of the Earth from Outer Space. The International Institute of Space Law of the International Astronautical Federation and the European Centre for Space Law jointly organized the Symposium.         

    Practice of States and international organizations in registering space objects

    A key item on the agenda was the practice of States and international organizations in registering space objects. The Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space requires States launching objects such as satellites, to make available related information to the United Nations. Based on this information, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA) maintains the United Nations Register of Objects Launched into Outer Space, for which it also provides an online searchable index.

    In accordance with the work plan for this item, covering the period from 2004 to 2007, the Subcommittee established a working group in order to examine reports submitted by Member States and international organizations on their practice in registering space objects.

    The Subcommittee agreed to continue discussing the registration practices related to space objects in order to enhance the adherence to the Convention by States and international organizations. The Subcommittee agreed to discuss at its next session the harmonization of administrative and practical aspects of registration; the non-registration of space objects; the practice relating to the transfer of ownership of space objects in orbit; and the registration and non-registration of “foreign” space objects.

    Registering property interests in space assets

    Another item on the agenda of the Subcommittee was the examination of the preliminary draft protocol on matters specific to space assets to the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment. The Convention establishes a general legal framework for registering interests in mobile high-value equipment that moves across national boundaries, such as aeroplanes and trains. The protocol on matters specific to space assets, which is aimed at establishing an international system for registering property interests in space assets, such as satellites, is being developed by the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT), an intergovernmental organization not affiliated to the United Nations.

    The Subcommittee focused on two issues under this agenda item: the possibility of the United Nations serving as the supervisory authority under the preliminary draft protocol, and the relationship between the terms of the preliminary draft protocol and the rights and obligations of States under the legal regimes applicable to outer space. The Subcommittee reconvened its working group to consider the questions reflected in these two issues separately.

    Consensus regarding the appropriateness of the United Nations serving as the supervisory authority could not be reached. The Subcommittee agreed, however, to continue to examine and review the developments regarding the preliminary draft protocol at its next session.

    Status and application of the five United Nations treaties on outer space

    The Subcommittee continued to discuss the status and application of the five United Nations treaties on outer space. The Subcommittee called on Member States to regularly provide OOSA with information on their national space legislation and policy, for use in the database, which OOSA maintains on this subject.

    The Subcommittee agreed that the Working Group under this agenda item could consider a questionnaire on possible options for future development of international space law, at its next session in 2006.

    Membership

    The Legal Subcommittee, like COPUOS, its parent Committee, has the following 67 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, Libya, 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, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela and Viet Nam.

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    The Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) was set up by the General Assembly in 1959 to review the scope of international cooperation in the 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.

    The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA) implements the decisions of the General Assembly and of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and its two Subcommittees, the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee and the Legal Subcommittee. The Office is responsible for promoting international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, and assisting developing countries in using space science and technology. Located in Vienna, Austria, OOSA maintains a website at http://www.unoosa.org/.