Press Releases

    UNIS/OS/330
    31 March 2006

    Background Release

    Outer Space Legal Subcommittee to Hold 45th Session in Vienna   

    VIENNA, 31 March (UN Information Service) -- The practice of States and international organizations in registering space objects will be a key item on the agenda of the 45th session of the Legal Subcommittee of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). The session will take place from 3 to 13 April in Vienna, Austria.

    Other topics of discussion include the definition and delimitation of outer space, the status and application of the five United Nations treaties on outer space, examination and review of the developments concerning 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 organizations are invited to report on their activities relating to space law.

    A symposium, which will be held following the conclusion of the first day of the session, will examine the legal aspects of space-system-based disaster management.

    Practice of States and international organizations in registering space objects

    A key item on the agenda will be the practice of States and international organizations in registering space objects. The Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space (the Registration Convention) requires States launching objects such as satellites, to make available information on the launched object 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 Subcommittee's working group on this item will identify common practices and draft recommendations for enhancing adherence to the Registration Convention. The working group could discuss the following issues: (a) harmonization of practices (administrative and practical); (b) non-registration of space objects; (c) practice with regard to transfer of ownership of space objects in orbit; and (d) practice with regard to registration/non-registration of "foreign" space objects.

    Definition and delimitation of outer space

    The Subcommittee will discuss the definition and delimitation of outer space and will reconvene its working group on that matter. The working group will review responses by member States to a questionnaire on possible legal issues with regard to aerospace objects. The working group will also examine replies by member States 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.

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

    The working group on this item will discuss the status of the treaties, the review of their implementation and obstacles to their universal acceptance, as well as the promotion of space law, especially through the United Nations Programme on Space Applications. The working group could also review any new, similar issues that might be raised in discussions in the working group, provided that those issues fell within its existing mandate.

    Registering property interests in space assets

    Another item on the agenda of the Subcommittee is the examination and review of the developments concerning the 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 move 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.

    Symposium

    The symposium will examine the legal aspects of disaster management and the contribution of the law of outer space.

    The symposium is jointly organized by the International Institute of Space Law of the International Astronautical Federation and the European Centre for Space Law and will be held in the afternoon of the first day of the Subcommittee session. The programme will include presentations by leading experts on topics such as the challenges of access to Earth observation data for disaster management, the initial legal issues and experiences related to the International Charter "Space and Major Disasters" and the legal and policy aspects of disaster management support from space in Asia.

    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.

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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/ .

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    For information contact:

    Qais Sultan
    Associate Programme Officer
    Telephone: +43 1 26060-4962
    E-mail: qais.sultan@unvienna.org