20 June 2005

Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space Concludes 48th Session in Vienna

Agreement on Contribution to the 2005 World Summit Reached; Space and Water Discussed

VIENNA, 20 June (UN Information Service) -- During its 48th session, which was held in Vienna from 8 to 17 June, the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) agreed on a text that could be transmitted to the President of the United Nations General Assembly by Member States of COPUOS for incorporation into the draft outcome document of the 2005 World Summit, to be held from 14 to 16 September 2005.

"The work that is conducted by the Committee is strongly linked to the work of the other entities of the United Nations system, and takes into account a great number of the priority goals of the General Assembly, in particular the matters relating to sustainable social and economic development", the President of the fifty-ninth session of the General Assembly, H.E. Mr. Jean Ping, told the Members of COPUOS in his opening statement.

Topics of discussion included space and water, space and society, ways and means of maintaining outer space for peaceful purposes, spin-off benefits of space technology, as well as issues raised in the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee and the Legal Subcommittee earlier this year. Those issues included space-system-based disaster management support, space-system-based telemedicine, space debris, the use of nuclear power sources in outer space, examination of the preliminary draft protocol on matters specific to space assets and the practice of States and international organizations in registering space objects.

The Committee endorsed the activities of the United Nations Programme on Space Applications for the second half of 2005 and for 2006. It also reviewed the activities of the International Satellite System for Search and Rescue (Cospas-Sarsat). Among other activities, the United Nations Programme on Space Applications holds training courses on satellite-aided search and rescue.

Space and water

The Committee continued to consider its agenda item on space and water. Space applications could contribute to cost-effective water resource management as well as to forecasting and mitigation of water-related emergencies. Remote sensing satellites contribute to determining various water management indicators, such as precipitation and changes in underground water storage, while communication satellites are used for gathering data on water quality. The Committee agreed to continue its discussions of this topic next year.

Implementation of the recommendations of UNISPACE III

The Committee discussed the implementation of the recommendations of the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III). In October 2004, the General Assembly reviewed the progress made in the implementation of those recommendations and endorsed a set of future actions proposed by the Committee in its report to the Assembly. The Committee discussed some of those proposals.

Among other things, COPUOS agreed on steps to establish a closer link between its work relating to the implementation of the recommendations of UNISPACE III and the work being carried out by the Commission on Sustainable Development.

The Committee also reviewed the progress made in the work of the ad hoc expert group that is conducting a study on the possibility of creating an international entity to coordinate space-based services for use in disaster management.

Space and society

Under the agenda item on space and society, COPUOS focused its discussions on space and education. The Committee received information from Member States on several national tele-education initiatives that are providing educators and students at all levels, including those living in remote areas, with high-quality education consisting of the latest teaching resources, vocational and teacher-training and adult education, in fields such as women’s empowerment, family planning and skills for local artisans.


A symposium on "Space and Archaeology" was held on Monday, 13 June. The symposium was co-organized by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Institute for Global Mapping and Research of Austria. The symposium addressed topics such as the current and future uses of space technology in archaeology and archaeology’s contribution to human development, UNESCO’s Open Initiative on the use of space technologies to support the World Heritage Convention, space applications in archaeological exploration and documentation in Syria, understanding cultural and natural heritage information using space technology in China, and remote sensing and virtual reconstruction of archaeological landscapes.

The Committee agreed that a symposium on space and forests should be held during its next session, in 2006.

New permanent observer

The Committee granted the European Space Policy Institute, an international non-governmental entity, based in Vienna, permanent observer status with COPUOS.


COPUOS 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 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 questions 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 United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA) implements the decisions of the General Assembly and of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and its two Subcommittees, the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee and the Legal Subcommittee. The Office is responsible for promoting international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, and assisting developing countries in using space science and technology. Located in Vienna, Austria, OOSA maintains a website at http://www.unoosa.org/.