Outer Space Scientific and Technical Subcommittee Concludes its 45th Session in Vienna

Outer Space Scientific and Technical Subcommittee Concludes its 45th Session in Vienna

VIENNA, 22 February (UN Information Service) - The newly established space-system-based disaster management programme (UN-SPIDER) was in thefocus of the 45th session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), which took place in Vienna, Austria, from 11 to 22 February 2008. Possible dangers from near-Earth objects, space debris mitigation and a safety framework for nuclear power sources in outer space were also key agenda items.

Other topics of discussion included a review of the implementation of the recommendations of the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III), recent developments in Global Navigation Satellite Systems, the use of the geostationary orbit, the International Heliophysical Year and matters related to remote sensing of the Earth by satellites, including applications for developing countries and monitoring of the Earth's environment.

A symposium on "Space Industry in Emerging Space Nations" was held on 12 February and addressed the role of the space manufacturing sector (satellites and their components, launchers, ground-support equipment) and the space service sector in emerging space nations. Symbolizing its commitment to the ideals of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, a hand-over ceremony of a UN flag, to be carried by the Republic of Korea's first astronaut, Ko San, during his historic flight to the International Space Station in April 2008, was held on 21 February.

Space-System-Based Disaster Management Support

The Subcommittee heard report on the implementation of the UN-SPIDER programme for the period 2008-2009 as well as other initiatives and long-term perspectives of various Member States and space agencies in the area of disaster management. The new UN-SPIDER programme, which is implemented by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), opened its first office in Bonn, Germany, last October and will be opening an office in Beijing, China, as well as a liaison office in Geneva, Switzerland, in 2008.

Near-Earth objects

The Subcommittee endorsed the new multi-year work plan 2009-2011, under which the Working Group on Near-Earth Objects (NEO) will review policies and procedures on the NEO threat at the international level in order to draft an agreement on international procedures by 2012. Within the framework of the International Year of Astronomy 2009, the Working Group will also try to raise awareness of the NEO threat. The Subcommittee continues to consider NEOs due to their scientific value as remnant debris from the inner solar system formation processes, their richness in various natural resources as well as their potential danger of collision with the Earth.

Use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space

The Joint Expert Group, established by the Subcommittee and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last year met during this session of the Subcommittee for further consideration of the draft safety framework for nuclear power source (NPS) applications in outer space, which is planned to be published by 2010. Member States also reviewed this document at meetings of the Working Group on the Use of NPS in Outer Space. The Subcommittee noted that the updated text would be sent by UNOOSA to Member States for their additional comments. The Subcommittee will continue to consider this issue under the multi-year work plan 2007-2010.

Space Debris

The Subcommittee considered information received from Member States on national research on space debris, the safety of space objects with nuclear power sources on board and problems relating to their collision with space debris, and noted with satisfaction that space debris mitigation guidelines were endorsed by the General Assembly at its most recent session. The Subcommittee further noted on-going activities of Member States and international organizations aimed at the mitigation of space debris, and agreed to be informed periodically about future revisions of the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC) Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines. The Subcommittee was also informed that the space debris generated by the engagement of an inoperable satellite "USA 193" by the United States, had already entered the atmosphere or would do so within 48 hours since the successful interception of this inoperable satellite on 20 February.

Recent developments in global navigation satellite systems

Under this new regular agenda item, the Subcommittee considered latest developments in the field of global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) and the benefits that the use of GNSS brings to the world's economies and societies. The Subcommittee also heard a report on the activities of the International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (ICG), established in 2006, which is an informal body to promote cooperation in civil satellite-based positioning, navigation, timing and value-added services, as well as the compatibility and interoperability of global navigation satellite systems.

International Heliophysical Year

This year was the last in the multi-year work plan on the International Heliophysical Year, which is an international programme of scientific collaboration to understand the Sun and its influence on the space environment and planets, and, as such, of great interest to Member States. The Subcommittee therefore decided to consider results of the world-wide IHY campaign as well as summary reports by Member States, scientific organizations and the IHY secretariat on the progress of their scientific campaigns again in 2009.

United Nations Programme on Space Applications

Member States also reviewed the activities of the United Nations Programme on Space Applications in 2007 and the activities planned for 2008. Within the Programme on Space Applications, UNOOSA plans to organize several workshops in 2008, aimed at disseminating knowledge of how to bring the benefits of space technology to everyone. This year, the topics of workshops include: the use of space technology for monitoring the impact of climate change on agricultural development and food security; water resource management; environmental protection and disease surveillance; tele-epidemiology; and public health improvement by using space technology to provide medical services.


The Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, like COPUOS, its parent committee, has the following 69 Member States: Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Bolivia, 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, Switzerland, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela and Viet Nam.

The following intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations have permanent observer status with COPUOS: African Organization of Cartography and Remote Sensing, 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, The Planetary Society and World Spaceweek Association.

For further information, contact:

Romana Kofler
Associate Programme Officer
Tel.: (+43-1) 26060-4962
Email: romana.kofler [at] unvienna.org