Press Releases

    UNIS/OS/350
    5 April 2007

    Outer Space Legal Subcommittee Concludes 46th Session in Vienna

             VIENNA, 5 April (UN Information Service) --  The practice of States and international organizations in registering space objects was a key item on the agenda of the 46th session of the Legal Subcommittee of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), held in Vienna, Austria from 26 March to 5 April.

    Other topics of discussion included the status and application of the five United Nations treaties on outer space, the definition and delimitation of outer space, the draft protocol on matters specific to space assets to the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment, review and possible revision of the Principles Relevant to the Use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space and matters relating to the character and use of the geostationary orbit. As in previous sessions of the Subcommittee, international intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations were invited to report on their activities relating to space law.

    The Subcommittee also noted that 2007 would be a memorable year for  COPUOS and the space community, celebrating 50th anniversary of the launching of the first artificial satellite, the 50th session of COPUOS and the 40th anniversary of the entry into force of the Outer Space Treaty.

    A symposium, which was held following the conclusion of the first two days of the session, examined the aspects of capacity building in space law and consisted of two sessions, "Teaching and Education" and "Training and Capacity Building".

    Practice of States and international organizations in registering space objects

    This year marked an important step forward in the work of the Subcommittee on this issue, as the Subcommittee adopted elements of conclusions regarding the practice of States and international organizations in registering space objects, that will be presented to COPUOS in June.

    The Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space (the Registration Convention) requires States launching objects such as satellites, to make information on the launched object available 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.

    The elements, adopted at this session of the Subcommittee provide important incentives for enhancing adherence to the Registration Convention and for achieving common practices by States and international organizations in registering space objects. On their basis, the Office for Outer Space was requested to make available to all States and international intergovernmental organizations, conducting space activities, a model registration form, reflecting the information to be provided to the Office for Outer Space Affairs, to assist them in their submission of registration information.

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

    The Subcommittee noted the positive impact of the letter from the Secretary-General encouraging participation in the outer space treaties and of the letter from the Office for Outer Space Affairs encouraging participation in the Liability Convention, which had stimulated a thorough consideration of participation in the United Nations treaties on outer space and had led to concrete results.

    The Subcommittee endorsed the recommendation of the Working Group that member States continue the debate on issues raised in the Questionnaire on the possible options for future development of international space law. The Subcommittee also endorsed the recommendation of the Working Group that member States, in addressing the low participation of States in the Moon Agreement, could in the framework of the Working Group in 2008: (a) address activities that are currently being carried out or to be carried out on the Moon and other celestial bodies in the near future; (b) identify the benefits of adherence to the Moon Agreement; (c) Identify the international and national rules governing activities on the Moon and other celestial bodies; and (d) Assess whether existing international rules adequately addressed activities on the Moon and other celestial bodies.

    Definition and delimitation of outer space

    The working group on that matter reviewed responses by Member States to a questionnaire on possible legal issues with regard to aerospace objects. The working group also examined replies by member States of COPUOS on national legislation or any national practices that may exist or are being developed, relating directly or indirectly to the definition and/or delimitation of outer space.

    Registering property interests in space assets

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

    Symposium

    The symposium examined the aspects of capacity building in space law. The programme included presentations by leading experts on two main topics: "Training and Education and "Training and Capacity Building". The Subcommittee noted the importance of education, training and capacity building in space law, specifically in support of the establishment and development of national space law.

    The symposium was jointly organized by the International Institute of Space Law (IISL) of the International Astronautical Federation and the European Centre for Space Law (ECSL) and was held in the afternoon of the first two days of the Subcommittee session.

    The Subcommittee agreed to invite IISL and ECSL to organize a two-day symposium during the forty-seventh session of the Subcommittee, in 2008, with the theme "Legal Implications of Space Applications for Global Climate Change".

    New Agenda Items

    At the next session, the Subcommittee will introduce two new agenda items. The first is "Capacity Building in Space Law" that will be discussed as a new single issue item on the agenda of the Subcommittee in 2008, aiming, in particular, to promote cooperation and assistance to developing countries. The Subcommittee further agreed to include "General exchange of information on national legislation relevant to the peaceful exploration and use of Outer Space" as an item under a four-year workplan, starting in 2008, when Member States will present their reports on national legislation relating to government and non-government space activities.                    

    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.

    The following inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations have permanent observer status with COPUOS: Association of Space Explorers, Committee on Earth Observation Satellites, Committee on Space Research, Regional Centre for Remote Sensing of the North African States, Eurisy, European Space Agency, European Space Policy Institute, International Academy of Astronautics, International Astronautical Federation, International Astronomical Union, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, International Law Association, International Mobile Satellite Organization, Intersputnik International Organization of Space Communications, International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, International Space University, National Space Society, Space Generation Advisory Council, Spaceweek International Association and The Planetary Society.

    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/.

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    For information, please contact:

    Romana Kofler
    Associate Programme Officer
    Telephone: +43 1 26060-4962
    E-mail: romana.kofler@unvienna.org