30 March 2001


To Discuss Space Law, Draft Convention of the International Institute for Unification
Of Private Law and the Concept of the "Launching State"

VIENNA, 30 March. (UN Information Service) – The activities of international organizations relating to space law and the review of the concept of the "launching state" will be among the topics discussed at the fortieth session of the Legal Subcommittee of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) meeting here from 2 to 12 April 2001.

Other topics on the agenda include: matters relating to the definition and delimitation of outer space; the character, qualifications and the rational and equitable use of the geostationary orbit; and the review and possible revision of the principles relevant to the use of nuclear power sources in outer space.

Space Law: Activities of International Organizations

"Information on the activities of international organizations relating to space law" is a topic that was introduced as a new regular agenda item for the Subcommittee at its previous session last year. In the framework of this topic, Member States review and comment on the reports of various international organizations (intergovernmental and non-governmental) presenting their activities relating to space law with the intention of promoting increased international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.

The Subcommittee has received reports from the following international organizations: the European Centre for Space Law (ECSL), the European Space Agency (ESA), the International Institute of Space Law (IISL) and the International Law Association (ILA).

Concept of the "Launching State"

In view of the importance of the obligations and responsibilities imposed on a launching State under the Liability and Registration Conventions – two of the five United Nations treaties governing the peaceful uses of outer space – the Subcommittee is reviewing the concept of the "launching State." Among other things, the Subcommittee may consider how the concept is applied in light of increasing international co-operation in space activities—it is now common for several countries to co-operate in launching a spacecraft—as well as the increasing importance of space activities by non-governmental entities. This year, the second year of a three-year work plan on the issue, the Subcommittee will review the concept of the "launching State" as contained in the Liability and Registration Conventions.

Delegates at the session will also review existing national space legislation illustrating how states are implementing, as appropriate, their responsibilities to authorize and provide continuing supervision of non-governmental entities in outer space, based on a review and a compilation of national space laws and international agreements prepared by the Office for Outer Space Affairs—which function as the Secretariat of COPOUS—as well as presentations by States.

Draft Convention on the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law

The Subcommittee will consider the Draft Convention of the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (Unidroit) international interests in mobile equipment and the preliminary draft protocol on matters specific to space property.

The Draft Convention and Protocol seek to address two problems faced when financing space property. In normal situations when financing property, if the money cannot be paid back, it is standard practice for the lender to seize the property (for instance, when a person is unable to make mortgage payments on a house). With space property, however, the situation is complicated first by the absence of a system for recording property rights and claims in space assets (it is difficult to determine if other lenders have conflicting claims).

Second, it is difficult to enforce claims and recover money in the case of space property, which is difficult to seize, since it is not within the territory of any State but instead is in orbit around the Earth. These complications make it more difficult and expensive to obtain financing for space property. The Draft Convention aims, among other things, 1) to develop a system for registering interests in space property, and 2) to develop methods for lenders to enforce these interests and recover funds they are owed.


Space law disputes and methods of their peaceful settlement will be the topic of this year’s special symposium to be held on the opening day of the Subcommittee session. The session will host several topical lectures by academics and professionals including "legal aspects of dispute resolution," "the European Space Agency's experience and practice on dispute settlement mechanisms" and "Dispute resolution mechanism for damage caused by space objects." The symposium is sponsored by the International Institute of Space Law (IISL), with the European Centre for Space Law (ECSL).


Membership on the Subcommittee, the same as its parent Committee COPOUS, consists of the following 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.

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For more information visit the web site of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs at


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