17 April 2001


Discussed Space Law, Draft Unidroit Convention and Protocol on Matters
Specific to Space Property and the Concept of the "Launching State"

VIENNA, 17 April. (UN Information Service) – The activities of international organizations relating to space law, review of the concept of the "launching State" and the draft convention of the International Institute for Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT) on international interests in mobile equipment and the draft protocol thereto on matters specific to space property were 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.

The Legal Subcommittee noted with satisfaction that various international organizations had been invited by the Secretariat to report to the Subcommittee on their activities relating to space law and agreed that a similar invitation should be extended by the Secretariat for the forty-first session.

The Subcommittee continued its consideration of legal issues relating to the review and possible revision of the United Nations Principles Relevant to the Use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space.

The Subcommittee also continued its consideration of the definition and delimitation of outer space and to the utilization of the geostationary orbit, in particular taking into account the concerns of developing countries.

The Legal Subcommittee agreed to the establishment of an ad hoc consultative mechanism to review issues relating to the draft convention on the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT) on international interests in mobile equipment and the preliminary draft protocol thereto on matters specific to space property, in accordance with a proposal introduced by the delegation of Belgium.

In view of the obligations and responsibilities imposed on a launching state under the Liability and Registration Conventions, the current session of the Subcommittee reviewed the concept of the "launching State," as defined in those Conventions.

A special Symposium on methods of peaceful settlement of space law disputes took place on the opening day of the Subcommittee session, sponsored by the International Institute of Space Law (IISL) and the European Centre for Space Law (ECSL).


The 1967 Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies ("Outer Space Treaty") provides that space exploration shall be carried out for the benefit of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic development. It also states that outer space is the province of all mankind, free for exploration and use by all States, and not subject to national appropriation.

The 1968 Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space ("Rescue Agreement") provides for aiding the crews of spacecraft in the event of accident or emergency landing, and establishes a procedure for returning to a launching authority a space object found beyond the territorial limits of that authority.

The 1972 Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects ("Liability Convention") provides that the launching State is liable for damage caused by its space objects on the Earth`s surface or to aircraft in flight and also to space objects of another State or persons or property on board such objects.

The 1975 Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space ("Registration Convention") provides that launching States shall maintain registries of space objects and furnish specified information on each space object launched, for inclusion in a central United Nations Register.

The 1979 Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and other Celestial Bodies ("Moon Agreement") elaborates in more specific terms the principles relating to the Moon and other celestial bodies set out in the 1967 Treaty and sets up the basis for the future regulation of the exploration and exploitation of natural resources found on such bodies.


The Subcommittee, like its parent Committee, the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), has 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.

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

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