Press Releases

    UNIS/OS/376
    13 February 2009

    UN Reiterates the Importance of the Implementation of the Space Debris Guidelines to Curtail Space Debris in Future

    VIENNA, 13 February (UN Information Service) - The Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) Mazlan Othman reiterated today the call by the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space to all Member States and international organizations to voluntarily take measures to ensure that Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines are fully implemented. Ms. Othman stressed that "the prompt implementation of appropriate space debris mitigation measures is in humanity's common interest, particularly if we are to preserve the outer space environment for future generations". The Director of UNOOSA's comments above echoed the wishes contained in the voluntary Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (A/62/20) endorsed by the General Assembly Resolution 62/217.

    On 10 February 2009, at approximately 16:55 GMT, the inactive Russian Federation communications satellite "Cosmos 2251" and the operational United States satellite "Iridium 33" collided at an altitude of 790 km above the Earth. The collision created a cloud of nearly 700 pieces of space debris. Space debris remain in orbit for a considerable length of time and pose a risk to spacecraft orbiting Earth. The Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (A/62/20) adopted by UN General Assembly Resolution 62/217, aim to curtail the generation of such potentially harmful space debris.

    The voluntary Guidelines outline space debris mitigation measures for the mission planning, design, manufacture and operational (launch, mission and disposal) phases of spacecraft and launch vehicle orbital stages. In adopting the Guidelines, the Committee agreed that it would increase mutual understanding on acceptable activities in space and thus enhance stability in space-related matters and decrease the likelihood of friction and conflict. Many Member States have incorporated the voluntary Guidelines through national mechanisms.  

    Developments in space debris mitigation will be discussed during the current 46 th session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. The agenda item of space debris will be considered by Member States and international organizations next week.

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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 (UNOOSA) 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 www.unoosa.org

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    For further information, please contact:

    Jamshid Gaziyev
    Associate Programme Officer, UNOOSA
    Telephone: (+43-1) 26060-4958
    Email: jamshid.gaziyev@unoosa.org