Background release

14 February 2003

Outer Space Scientific and Technical Subcommittee to Hold Fortieth Session in Vienna, 17-28 February

To Discuss Use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space, Disaster Management, Space Debris Mitigation and Use of Space Technology for Medical Sciences

VIENNA, 14 February (UN Information Service) -- Managing natural disasters with the help of space technology, as well as reviewing the possible uses of space technology in medical science and the promotion of public health, will constitute key items on the agenda of the fortieth session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPOUS) meeting here from 17 February.

Other topics of discussion include the use of nuclear power sources in outer space, the review of possible guidelines on how to reduce space debris created by space missions, and ways and means to strengthen cooperation and the use of space technology applications within and among the various agencies and programmes of the United Nations system. In discussing disaster management, nuclear power sources and inter-agency cooperation, the Subcommittee will be finishing its multi-year work programmes in those three areas.

The discussion on the use of space technology for medical sciences and public health is a new agenda item for the Subcommittee. Delegates are expected to hear a number of presentations by experts in the field covering topics such as the use of space technology to control infectious diseases and the benefits of tele-health.

The participants will also review the implementation of the recommendations of UNISPACE III (the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space held in Vienna in 1999). The Subcommittee is also expected to begin preparations for the General Assembly's review in 2004 of the achievements of the past five years in meeting the goals and aims of the 1999 world conference.

Member states will also review the activities of the United Nations Programme on Space Applications in 2002 and the planned activities for 2003. The Programme, through workshops and training courses, aims at ensuring that the benefits of space science and technology are accessible to all countries.

During the first two afternoons of the Subcommittee session, the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) and the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) will hold a symposium on the topic of applications of satellite navigation and their benefits to developing countries. The Subcommittee session will also coincide with the opening of a special exhibition on "China's Space Activities" at the Vienna International Centre. The exhibition, jointly organized by the Vienna-based United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA) and the China National Space Administration (CNSA), will have on display amongst others, models of rockets and satellites built and launched by China.

Nuclear Power Sources

The Subcommittee is in the final year of its four-year work plan on the topic of the use of nuclear power sources in outer space. During the first three years of the work plan, the Subcommittee's Special Working Group prepared a detailed report reviewing international documents and national processes potentially relevant to the peaceful uses of nuclear power sources in outer pace. At its final session the Subcommittee is expected to consider what action to take based on the findings of the latter report.

Disaster Management

Also as part of a multi-year work plan, the Subcommittee is in its final year as regards finishing the issues of "implementation of an integrated, space-based global natural disaster management system." This year the Subcommittee should review possible global operational structures to handle natural disaster management, making maximum use of existing and planned space systems.

Space technology, such as remote sensing satellites, navigation satellites, and telecommunications satellites, are already used extensively for disaster management. For instance, remote sensing satellites can be used to map features of interest in regions where disasters are likely to occur, and following a disaster, they can provide up-to-date images of the affected area. Satellite communications help connect regions affected by disasters to the outside world, when ground infrastructure is damaged or destroyed.

Space Debris

The Subcommittee will continue its work on space debris. An expert body, not affiliated to the United Nations, containing the representatives from various national space agencies -- the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC) -- has reached a consensus on a set of proposals to reduce the amount of new space debris that is created. Delegates are expected to review those proposals and discuss ways to encourage their use.

Symposium on satellite navigation applications

The applications of satellite navigation and their benefits to developing countries will be the theme of this year's joint COSPAR-IAF symposium which will be held during the first two afternoons of the Subcommittee session. Through a series of presentations the participants will have a chance to review the application of satellite navigation in such areas as: civil aviation; environmental monitoring; management of marine resources; agriculture management; river and geophysical mapping; and seismology and geology monitoring.


The Subcommittee like COPUOS, its parent Committee, has the following 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, 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, Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela and Viet Nam.

* * *

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