Discusses space-system-based disaster management, nuclear power sources in outer space and space debris

VIENNA, 26 February (UN Information Service) — The newly established space-system-based disaster management programme, a safety framework for nuclear power sources in outer space, mitigation guidelines for space debris and the International Heliophysical Year 2007 were key agenda items of the 44th session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), held in Vienna, Austria, from 12 to 23 February 2007.

With a remarkable convergence of anniversaries in 2007, which include the 50th anniversary of space age, the 40th anniversary of the entry into force of the Outer Space Treaty, the 50th session of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, and the celebration of International Heliophysical Year 2007, the Subcommittee welcomed the opportunity this posed to increase the awareness of the relevance and importance of space applications to the betterment of the human condition.

One of the highlights of the 44th session of the Subcommittee was the official opening of the International Heliophysical Year (IHY) 2007 worldwide campaign and the accompanying exhibition on the IHY 2007 at the United Nations Office in Vienna and a one-day symposium on the IHY 2007 hosted in Vienna by the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

At the next session, the Subcommittee will introduce a new agenda item: recent developments in the Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS).

Space-system-based Disaster Management Support

The Subcommittee commended the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA) for the “Proposed Platform Programme 2007 – 2009” and the “Proposed Plan-of-Work 2007” of the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (SPIDER), that was established by the General Assembly in its resolution 61/110 of 14 December 2006, and noted with satisfaction that the commitments of support made by Member States would enable the new programme to begin its activities immediately. Commitments from Member States included the provision of secondment of experts, cash and in-kind contributions, including satellite-based data and training and capacity building facilities as well as fully furnished and equipped office space in Beijing, China, and in Bonn, Germany.

Space Debris

The Subcommittee adopted mitigation guidelines for space debris, agreeing that the successful approval of voluntary guidelines for the mitigation of space debris would increase the mutual understanding of acceptable activities in space, enhance stability in space as well as decrease the likelihood of friction and conflict. The space debris mitigation guidelines developed in the Subcommittee are technically based on the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC) space debris mitigation guidelines and remain voluntary.

Use of Nuclear Power Sources (NPS) in Outer Space

The Subcommittee endorsed a proposed implementation option for the international technically based framework of goals and recommendations for the safety of nuclear power source applications in outer space. The Subcommittee proposed a partnership with the International Atomic Energy Agency in order to prepare and publish the safety framework for NPS applications in outer space by establishing a joint experts group. The Subcommittee also endorsed a new work plan proposed by the Working Group for the period of 2007- 2010.

International Heliophysical Year (IHY) 2007

The official opening of the IHY 2007 worldwide campaign accompanied the Subcommittee’s session. Member States presented their activities within the framework of the IHY. Scientific research, space science instruments, outreach and education, and preserving history of the International Geophysical Year, which was held in 1957 were singled out as the main components of the IHY 2007. The Member States called for further deepening of international collaboration within the framework of the IHY and will continue reporting on their activities related to the IHY at the next session of the Subcommittee.

Near-Earth Objects

The Working Group on Near-Earth Objects developed a new multi-year work plan 2008-2010 to consider the topic of Near-Earth Objects (NEOs). The Subcommittee will therefore continue with consideration of NEOs due to their scientific value as remnant debris from the inner solar system formation processes, the possibility of their collision with Earth and the resulting devastating consequences, and their richness in various natural resources.

Implementation of UNISPACE III Recommendations

The Subcommittee considered the implementation of the recommendations of UNISPACE III, which was held in Vienna in 1999. At this year’s session the Subcommittee reviewed the contribution that space science and technology and their applications could make in the areas of agriculture, rural development, land, drought, desertification, with particular attention on Africa, which are all part of a thematic cluster to be addressed by the Commission on Sustainable Development in 2008 and 2009.


The Scientific and Technical 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/.

For information contact:

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

United Nations Information Service Vienna (UNIS)
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