2 February 2000

7-18 FEBRUARY 2000

To Discuss UNISPACE III Recommendations,
Space Debris and Use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space


VIENNA, 2 February (United Nations Information Service) B Implementing the recommendations of UNISPACE III and discussing technical issues related to space exploration and applications will be the two major subjects of a Vienna meeting which will bring together delegates from many nations and leading space experts from 7 to 18 February, 2000.

The implementation of the recommendations of the Third United Nations Conference on the Explorations and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III), which was held in Vienna from 19 to 30 July 1999, is going to feature on the agenda of the thirty-seventh session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS).

The Subcommittee, one of the two subsidiary bodies of COPUOS, which serves as the focal point of multilateral co-operation in space technology and research, is expected to reconvene the Working Group of the Whole to consider the future work of the Subcommittee in the light of the recommendations of UNISPACE III.

In 1971, the General Assembly established the United Nations Space Applications Programme, which assists nations in using space technology for economic, social and cultural development. Reviewing the status of the Programme has been a long-standing agenda item for the sessions of the Subcommittee. UNISPACE III has strengthened the Programme by identifying specific areas and actions through which space science and technology can help solve common problems of regional or global significance. For developing countries, the enhancement of indigenous capabilities using space science should lead to accelerated economic, social and cultural growth, since such technologies help them to `leapfrog` stages in development.

Such capabilities include, for example, using remote sensing to detect and provide data in the mitigation, early warning and relief of natural and man-made disasters. Using remote sensing, environmental scientists can track the course of hurricanes and oil spillages, for example, quickly relaying vital information to local populations and relief workers. Remote sensing can also be used in freshwater and coastal management, for agriculture and for weather prediction.

The Subcommittee will consider matters relating to remote sensing of the Earth by satellites, including applications for developing countries and monitoring of the Earth’s environment.

In addition to education about space technology, the Conference also focused on education and training using space technology. The use of space technology in distance learning and teacher training, the development of mass literacy programmes as well as the education of engineers, scientists and technicals in developing countries was given special attention at the Conference.

Based on the recommendations of UNISPACE III the Subcommittee will review its workshop and training activities within the framework of the Space Application programme for 2000 and also as regards future training courses, seminars and fellowship programmes.

The UN Programme on Space Applications continues to make progress in establishing regional centres for space science and technology education in developing countries. The Centre for Space and Technology Education in Asia and the Pacific became operational in 1995 and has been followed by the establishment of similar centres throughout the world. The Centres are expected to enhance the academic and professional capabilities and technical infrastructure in each region.

The problem of dealing with space debris B retired or defunct satellites and fragments and small particles of various origins B will continue to be a priority subject for the Subcommittee as delegates are expected to review international application of the standards of the International Telecommunication Union and recommendations of the Inter-Agency Space Debris Co-ordination Committee (IADC) concerning the disposal of satellites in geosynchronous orbit at the end of their useful life. The IADC will be invited to make a technical presentation on its work to the Subcommittee at its session.

The Subcommittee will also discuss the use of nuclear power sources in outer space. This session should identify terrestrial processes and technical standards that may be relevant to nuclear power sources, including factors that distinguish nuclear power sources in outer space from terrestrial nuclear applications.

The theme of "Space commercialisation: an era of new opportunities and challenges" will be addressed in a special symposium, organised by the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) and the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) on 7 and 8 February 2000.

"Interactive multimedia satellite services: implications for the twenty-first century" will be the theme of another symposium to be held on 9 February. UNISPACE III recommended that an industry symposium should be held at the annual sessions of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee; this is the first industry symposium. This event aims to strengthen the partnership of the Subcommittee with private industry, as well as to provide Member States with updated information on commercially available products, services, and on-going activities of space-related industry.

Other topics of the agenda include: international co-operation in human spaceflight, presentations on new launch systems and ventures, as well as the physical nature and technical attributes of the geostationary orbit.


The Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA) organised the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III), which was held from 19 to 30 July, 1999, open to all Member States of the United Nations. Two global UNISPACE conferences took place in Vienna in 1968 and 1982.

The primary objectives of the Conference were to promote effective means of using space technology to assist in the solution of problems of regional or global significance and strengthen the capabilities of Member States, in particular developing countries, to use space applications for economic, social and cultural development.

UNISPACE III was also intended to be a forum to promote international co-operation in space technology and applications and to increase awareness among the general public regarding the benefits of space technology. It has also served as an opportunity to critically evaluate space activities.

Creating a blueprint for the peaceful uses of outer space in the 21st century, the Conference adopted `The Space Millennium: Vienna Declaration on Space and Human Development`. The General Assembly endorsed the Declaration in December 1999.

In accordance with the guidance provided by UNISPACE III and the General Assembly, the Office is consulting with Member States, space agencies, intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations and the specialised agencies of the United Nations system, to define appropriate near- and mid-term objectives and activities for the United Nations Space Applications Programme.

Space Debris

After thirty-six years of human activity in outer space, ground-based optical and radar surveillance systems around the world have catalogued more than 8,500 objects falling under the heading of space debris.

The need to have a firm scientific and technical basis for future action concerning orbital debris to prevent further pollution and reduce collision risks was formally recognised by the Committee in 1994. The Subcommittee deliberations on space debris have been in accordance with a multi-year work plan that was adopted in 1995. At that time, the Subcommittee agreed to produce a technical report on the measurements of space debris, understanding of data and effects of the space debris environment on space systems, modelling of the space debris environment, as well as on risk assessment and space debris mitigation measures.

The Subcommittee has been working in close co-operation with the Inter-Agency Space Debris Co-ordination Committee (IADC), which has made several scientific and technical presentations on the subject at the Subcommittee’s annual sessions and provided technical expertise in the drafting of the technical report.

At its thirty-sixth session, in 1999, the Subcommittee adopted the technical report on space debris and agreed to examine the subject in the coming years. The current session is going to consider this item as a single issue and item for discussion on a priority basis.


Membership in the Subcommittee, the same as in COPOUS, its parent Committee, consists of 61 countries each year. The following are members:

Albania, 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, Malaysia*, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru*, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea*, Romania, Russian Federation, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam and Yugoslavia.

* * * * *

(*Peru and Malaysia rotate their memberships every two years with Cuba and the Republic of Korea).