Press Releases

    Background Release

    4 June 2002


    To Discuss Ways and Means of Maintaining Outer Space for Peaceful Purposes

    VIENNA, 4 June (UN Information Service) – Topics to be considered at the forty-fifth session of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) are: the implementation of the recommendations of the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III), report of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee on its thirty-ninth session, report of the Legal Subcommittee on its forty-first session and activities of the International Satellite System for Search and Rescue (COSPAS-SARSAT). The Committee will also discuss a new agenda item on Space and Society. The session will be convening in Vienna from 5 to 14 June.

    UNISPACE III Recommendations

    The United Nations Space Applications Programme was established in 1971 by the General Assembly, with a mandate to assist nations in using space technology for economic, social and cultural development. UNISPACE III was held in Vienna from 19 to 30 July 1999, and it has identified specific areas and actions through which space science and technology can help solve common problems on both the regional and global level.

    Among UNISPACE III recommendations were the following: remote sensing for protecting the environment, facilitating and utilising communications, improving and using positioning and location capabilities, furthering knowledge and building capacity, enhancing education and training opportunities for youth, information technology needs and the global approach, spin-offs and commercial benefits from space activities: promoting technology development and exchange, and promoting international cooperation.

    The Outer Space Scientific and Technical Subcommittee – one of the two subsidiary bodies of COPUOS – considered through its Working Group of the Whole the implementation of the recommendations of UNISPACE III at its thirty-ninth session from 25 February to 8 March 2002. Action teams, under the leadership of member States, and established by the main Committee at its last year’s session for selected UNISPACE III recommendations, reported to the recent session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee. Action teams will submit another report to the upcoming session of the main Committee.

    The General Assembly will conduct a "five-year" review of UNISPACE III and consider further actions and initiatives based on this review as its fifty-ninth session in 2004. In order to prepare for this review, the Committee was asked to submit recommendations on the format, scope and organisational aspects of the review for consideration by the General Assembly in 2002. At its upcoming session, the Committee will therefore establish a working group on this issue, taking the work of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee into account.

    The Subcommittee’s Working Group of the Whole recommended that a statement from the Committee be delivered at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg from 26 August to 4 September 2002 in order to increase awareness of the usefulness of space technology for promoting sustainable development.

    The Committee will also consider the report of the Legal Subcommittee – the other subsidiary body of the main Committee – on its forty-first session from 2 to 12 April 2002, including conclusions of a three-year work plan on "Review of the concept of the ‘launching State’". The Subcommittee endorsed all the conclusions of the working group on this issue.

    COSPAS-SARSAT System Overview

    As from this year, the Committee will receive a report on the activities of the International Satellite System for Search and Rescue (COSPAS-SARSAT) on an annual basis.

    COSPAS-SARSAT is a satellite system designed to provide distress alert and location data to assist search and rescue (SAR) operations, using spacecraft and ground facilities to detect and locate the signals of distress beacons. The system offers support to all organisations in the world with responsibility for SAR operations, whether at sea, in the air or on land.

    Operational use of COSPAS-SARSAT by SAR agencies started with the crash of a light aircraft in Canada, in which three people were rescued (September 9, 1982). Since then, the system has been used for hundreds of SAR events and has been responsible for the saving of several thousands of lives worldwide. From September 1982 to the end of December 2000, the COSPAS-SARSAT system provided assistance in rescuing 12,747 persons in 3,747 SAR events.

    Space and Society

    Under this agenda item the Committee will look at the many ways in which space has affected our human society. Space technology is now an important part of daily life around the world, in fields like environmental protection, disaster management, agriculture and navigation. Communication satellites have been an important part of the information revolution, making possible applications like tele-health and tele-education, and helping to transmit information accessed over the Internet. The history of space exploration, as well as fields like astronomy have helped change our outlook, and are an important theme in the arts.

    Natural Disaster Management

    The Committee will also consider the findings and views of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee on the existing and proposed satellite and data distribution systems that could be used operationally for disaster management as well as gaps in the system.

    Natural disasters, such as earthquakes, typhoons, wildfires and floods, cause huge loss of life and damage to property annually around the world, and can wipe out in minutes, years of progress in economic and social development. Space technologies have important applications to disaster reduction and emergency management.

    Space Debris

    Space debris – retired or defunct satellites and fragments and small particles of various origin – were considered by the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, with attention given to space debris impact hazards and shielding.


    The Committee 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, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Syria, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam.

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