17 February 2005

Outer Space Scientific and Technical Subcommittee to Hold 42nd Session in Vienna

Space-System-Based Disaster Management Key Item on Agenda

VIENNA, 17 February (UN Information Service) – Space-system-based disaster management will be one of the key agenda items at the 42nd session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), which will take place in Vienna from 21 February to 4 March 2005.

Other topics of discussion include space-system-based telemedicine, the use of nuclear power sources in outer space, measures for reducing space debris created by space missions, as well as near-Earth objects.

A new topic of discussion will be the proposed International Geophysical and Heliophysical Year in 2007. This will be a major international event, involving the deployment of new space instrumentation, new observations from the ground and in space, as well as educational initiatives. It will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the International Geophysical Year, which involved about 60,000 scientists from 66 countries, working at thousands of stations around the world to obtain simultaneous, global observations from the ground and space.

The Subcommittee will also discuss matters relating to remote sensing of the Earth by satellites, including applications for developing countries and monitoring of the Earth’s environment. During the first two afternoons of the Subcommittee session, there will be a symposium on the topic of high-resolution and hyperspectral satellite data integration for precision farming, environmental monitoring and possible new applications. The symposium is being co-organized by the Committee on Space Research and the International Astronautical Federation.

Member States will review the activities of the United Nations Programme on Space Applications in 2004 and the activities planned for 2005. The Programme, implemented by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA), works to improve the use of space science and technology for the economic and social development of all nations, in particular developing countries. Under the Programme, OOSA conducts training courses, workshops, seminars and other activities on applications and capacity building in subjects such as remote sensing, communications, satellite meteorology, search and rescue, basic space science, satellite navigation and space law.

Space-system-based Disaster Management

As part of a new multi-year work plan, the Subcommittee will consider the topic of space-system-based disaster management. Space technology, such as remote sensing satellites, navigation satellites and telecommunication satellites, is already used extensively for disaster management. For instance, remote sensing satellites are used to update maps of areas where natural disasters are likely to occur, and, following a disaster, they provide up-to-date images of the affected areas which can be used for rescue and relief operations. When ground infrastructure is damaged or destroyed, satellite communications help connect regions affected by disasters to the outside world. The Subcommittee, among other things, will review the recommendations of the Action Team on Disaster Management, with a view to their implementation. The Action Team was established by COPUOS in 2001, under the co-chairmanship of Canada, China and France, and consists of more than 50 countries, entities of the UN system and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. The Subcommittee will also review the status of earthquake prediction capabilities using data and information from satellites, based on presentations by experts.

Space-system-based Telemedicine

Also as part of a multi-year work plan, the Subcommittee will address the topic of space-system-based telemedicine. The Subcommittee will hear presentations on the development of electronic biomedical equipment and its compatibility with space-based telemedicine systems, as well as presentations by specialist organizations on space-based telemedicine systems.

Nuclear Power Sources

The Subcommittee will continue to consider the use of nuclear power sources in outer space under a work plan that covers the period from 2003 to 2006. The Subcommittee will review information from national and regional space agencies on the content of relevant national space nuclear power source programmes and applications planned or currently foreseeable. The Subcommittee will prepare a final outline of the objectives, scope and attributes of an international technically based framework of goals and recommendations for assuring the safety of planned and currently foreseeable space nuclear power source applications.

Space Debris

The Subcommittee is in the fourth year of its work plan on the topic of space debris. In 2003, the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC), a body consisting of representatives from various national space agencies, presented to the Subcommittee proposals for reducing the amount of newly-created space debris. On the basis of an agreement in the Subcommittee, Member States this year will begin annual reporting on a voluntary basis of national activities to implement the proposals of the IADC.

Near-Earth Objects

The Subcommittee will begin considering a new agenda item on the topic of near-Earth objects under a multi-year work plan. Near-Earth objects include celestial bodies like asteroids and meteors, which may pass the Earth’s orbit. This year, the Subcommittee will receive reports from international organizations, regional bodies and others active in the field of near-Earth object research, including of detection of asteroids and other bodies, and follow-up activity on the work they undertook in 2004.


The Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, like COPUOS, its parent committee, has the following 67 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, Libya, 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, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela and Viet Nam.

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The Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) was set up by the United Nations General Assembly in 1959 to review the scope of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, to devise programmes in this field to be undertaken under United Nations auspices, to encourage continued research and the dissemination of information on outer space matters and to study legal problems arising from the exploration of outer space. COPUOS and its two Subcommittees each meet annually to consider issues put before them by the General Assembly, reports submitted to them and issues raised by the Member States. The Committee and the Subcommittees, working on the basis of consensus, make recommendations to the General Assembly. The Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA) maintains a website at http://www.unoosa.org.