6 March 2006

Outer Space Scientific and Technical Subcommittee Concludes 43rd Session in Vienna

Discusses Space-system-based Disaster Management Support and Space Debris

VIENNA, 6 March (UN Information Service) -- Space debris and space-system-based disaster management support were two of the key agenda items of the 43rd session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), held in Vienna, Austria, from 20 February to 3 March 2006.

Other topics of discussion included use of nuclear power sources in outer space, the review of the implementation of the recommendations of the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III), space-system-based telemedicine, near-Earth objects, and the International Heliophysical Year (IHY) 2007.

The Subcommittee also discussed matters related to remote sensing of the Earth by satellites, including applications for developing countries and monitoring of the Earth's environment, as well as the examination of the physical nature and technical attributes of the geostationary orbit.

During the first afternoon of the Subcommittee session, a symposium was held on the topic of synthetic aperture radar missions and their applications. The presentations were made by industry representatives.

Member States reviewed the activities of the United Nations Programme on Space Applications in 2005 and the activities planned for 2006. 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. Within the framework of the Programme, OOSA conducts training courses, workshops, seminars and other activities on remote sensing, satellite-based communications, satellite meteorology, search and rescue, basic space science, disaster management, satellite navigation and space law.

Space Debris

The Working Group on Space Debris of the Subcommittee reached consensus on the text of draft space debris mitigation guidelines. The Subcommittee agreed that the draft mitigation guidelines would be circulated at the national level to secure consent for approval of the guidelines by the Subcommittee at its forty-fourth session next year. The future space debris mitigation guidelines of the Subcommittee, should they be adopted, would be implemented on a voluntary basis and through national mechanisms, and would not be legally binding under international law.

Space-system-based Disaster Management Support

As part of a multi-year work plan, the Subcommittee discussed the topic of space-system-based disaster management support. The Subcommittee reviewed the study of an ad hoc expert group on the possibility of creating an international space coordination entity to support disaster management. Among other things, the Subcommittee agreed that the ad hoc expert group should meet during the forty-ninth session of COPUOS (7-16 June, Vienna), to finalize its report to COPUOS, including a proposed implementation plan for the entity. Delegates were also briefed on the activities of specialized agencies of the UN system on the topic of space-system-based disaster management support.

On the afternoons of 23 and 24 February, a workshop on disaster management was held, involving communication and meteorological satellite operators.                    

Use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space

The Subcommittee continued to consider the use of nuclear power sources in outer space under a multi-year work plan. A workshop on the objectives, scope and general attributes of a potential technical safety framework for nuclear power sources in outer space was jointly organized by the Subcommittee and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and held on 20-22 February. The Subcommittee agreed that continued effort towards the establishing of an international technically based framework of goals and recommendations for the safety of planned and currently foreseeable nuclear power source applications in outer space should be encouraged.

Implementation of UNISPACE III Recommendations

The Subcommittee considered the implementation of the recommendations of UNISPACE III, which was held in Vienna in 1999. The Subcommittee endorsed the text regarding the contribution that space science and technology and their applications could make to energy for sustainable development, industrial development, and against air pollution/atmosphere and climate change, which are all part of a thematic cluster to be addressed by the Commission on Sustainable Development in 2006 and 2007. The Subcommittee requested OOSA to transmit the text to the Commission at its 14th session, to be held from 1 to 12 May 2006.

Space-system-based Telemedicine

This was the final year of the Subcommittee's consideration of space-system-based telemedicine, under a multi-year work plan. The Subcommittee heard presentations and statements on bilateral or multilateral projects to develop further space-based telemedicine applications through international cooperation. These included projects for monitoring outbreaks of avian flu, Chagas' disease, malaria and yellow fever, among others. The Subcommittee urged Member States to continue to initiate bilateral and multilateral cooperative projects in space-system-based telemedicine in developing countries, in order to bring better health-care services to the populations of those countries.

Near-Earth Objects

The Subcommittee considered the topic of near-Earth objects, which include celestial bodies such as asteroids and meteors that may cross the Earth's orbit. The Subcommittee noted that early detection and precision tracking were the most effective tools for the management of threats posed by near-Earth objects. The Subcommittee also noted that any measures to mitigate such threats would require coordinated international efforts.

International Heliophysical Year 2007

The Subcommittee considered the agenda item on the International Heliophysical Year (IHY) 2007, under a new work plan covering the period from 2006 to 2008. IHY will be devoted to the study of the connections between the Earth, the Sun and inter-planetary space, such as the response of the Earth's atmosphere and magnetosphere to the 'weather' on the Sun. This will be a major international event, involving the deployment of new space instrumentation and observations from the ground and in space, as well as educational initiatives. The study of energetic events in the solar system would pave the way for safe human travel to the Moon and planets and would serve to inspire the next generation of space physicists.


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.

The following inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations have permanent observer status with COPUOS: Association of Space Explorers, Committee on Earth Observation Satellites, Committee on Space Research, Regional Centre for Remote Sensing of the North African States, Eurisy, European Space Agency, European Space Policy Institute, International Academy of Astronautics, International Astronautical Federation, International Astronomical Union, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, International Law Association, International Mobile Satellite Organization, Intersputnik International Organization of Space Communications, International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, International Space University, National Space Society, Space Generation Advisory Council, Spaceweek International Association and The Planetary Society.


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/ .

* *** *

For information contact:

Qais Sultan
Associate Programme Officer
Telephone: +43 1 26060-4962
E-mail: qais.sultan@unvienna.org