The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs was initially created as a small expert unit within the United Nations Secretariat to service the ad hoc Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, established by the General Assembly in its resolution 1348 (XIII) of 13 December 1958.
The unit was moved to work under the Department of Political and Security Council Affairs in 1962 and was transformed into the Outer Space Affairs Division of that Department in 1968. In 1992, the Division was transformed into the Office for Outer Space Affairs within the Department for Political Affairs. In 1993, the Office was relocated to the United Nations Office at Vienna. At that time, the Office also assumed responsibility for substantive secretariat services to the Legal Subcommittee, which had previously been provided by the Office of Legal Affairs in New York.
Questions relating to the militarization of outer space are dealt by the Conference on Disarmament, based in Geneva.
Several multilateral treaties have been adopted by the United Nations General Assembly to enable the orderly conduct of activities in outer space.
The cornerstone of these governance instruments is the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. Among the principles embodied in the Treaty are the freedom of exploration and use of space for the benefit and interest of all countries, the non-appropriation of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, and the prohibition of the deployment of nuclear weapons or other kinds of weapons of mass destruction in outer space.
Four other treaties were adopted to reinforce the framework set by the Outer Space Treaty.
The Rescue Agreement of 1968 requires States to assist an astronaut in case of accident, distress, emergency or unintended landing.
The Liability Convention of 1972 establishes the standards of liability for damage caused by space objects.
The Registration Convention of 1975 requires States to register all objects launched into outer space with the United Nations.
The Moon Agreement of 1979 elaborates on the provisions of the Outer Space Treaty as they apply to the Moon and other celestial bodies.
Five sets of principles support that body of law. These are the declaration of legal principles governing the activities of States in Outer Space (1963), the principles relating to international direct television broadcasting (1982), the principles relating to remote sensing of the Earth (1986), the principles on the use of nuclear power sources (1992) and the declaration on international cooperation in the exploration and use of outer space (1996).
Other resolutions adopted by the Assembly to strengthen the framework include a means for States that are not party to the Registration Convention to provide information on their satellites (1721 B of 1961) and recommendations to facilitate the application of the concept of the "launching State" (59/115 of 2004) and for the enhancement of registration practices (62/101 of 2007).
Roles and Responsibilities
The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) is the United Nations office responsible for promoting international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space. UNOOSA serves as the secretariat for the General Assembly's only committee dealing exclusively with international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space: the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS).
UNOOSA is also responsible for implementing the Secretary-General's responsibilities under international space law and maintaining the United Nations Register of Objects Launched into Outer Space.
Through the United Nations Programme on Space Applications, UNOOSA conducts international workshops, training courses and pilot projects on topics that include remote sensing, satellite navigation, satellite meteorology, tele-education and basic space sciences for the benefit of developing nations. It also maintains a 24-hour hotline as the United Nations focal point for satellite imagery requests during disasters and manages the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER).
UNOOSA is the current secretariat of the International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (ICG).
UNOOSA also prepares and distributes reports, studies and publications on various fields of space science and technology applications and international space law. Documents and reports are available in all official languages of the United Nations through this website.
UNOOSA is located at the United Nations Office at Vienna, Austria.
Since the beginning of the space age, triggered by the launch of Sputnik I in 1957, the United Nations has accorded significant importance to the promotion of greater international collaboration in outer space.
The potentials of space technology for socioeconomic development were immense and that the best way to reap these benefits were through international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, facilitated by the United Nations.
Recognising this immense potential of space technology for socioeconomic development, the United Nations organized three unique global Conferences on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space – UNISPACE Conferences – to engage States and international organizations to further their cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.
UNISPACE Conferences provided a platform for a global dialogue on key issues related to space exploration and exploitation that have yielded tremendous scientific as well as economic and societal benefits for humankind.
All three UNISPACE conferences were held in Vienna.
UNISPACE I, held from 14 to 27 August 1968, was the first in a series of three global UN conferences on outer space, which focused on raising awareness of the vast potential of space benefits for all humankind. The Conference reviewed the progress in space science, technology and applications and called for increased international cooperation, with particular regard to the benefit of developing nations. The Conference also recommended the creation of the post of Expert on Space Applications within UNOOSA, which in turn led to the creation, in 1971, of the UNOOSA Programme on Space Applications. Throughout the 1970s, the Programme implemented trainings and workshops, using space technology in such diverse areas as telecommunications, environmental monitoring and weather forecasting, remote sensing for disaster mitigation and management, agricultural and forestry development, cartography, geology and other resource development applications.
The report of UNISPACE I Conference, which was attended by 78 Member States, 9 specialized UN agencies and 4 other international organizations, is part of theReport of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, document A/7285.
UNISPACE II (or UNISPACE 82) was held from 9 to 21 August 1982, attended by 94 Member States and 45 intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. UNISPACE II addressed the concerns of how to mantain the outer space for peaceful purposes and prevent an arms race in outer space as essential conditions for peaceful exploration and use of outer space. The Conference focused on strengthening the United Nations' commitment to promoting international cooperation to enable developing countries to benefit from the peaceful uses of space technology. UNISPACE II led to strengthening of the UNOOSA Programme on Space Applications, which increased opportunities for developing countries to participate in educational and training activities in space science and technology and to develop their indigenous capabilities in the use of space technology applications. UNISPACE II also led to the establishment of regional centers for space science and technology education, which are affiliated to the UN and focus on building human and institutional capacities for exploiting the immense potential of space technology for socio-economic development.
Rapid progress in space exploration and technology led to UNISPACE III conference, held from 19 to 30 July 1999. Attended by 97 Member States, 9 UN specialized agenices and 15 international intergovernmental organizations, UNISPACE III created a blueprint for the peaceful uses of outer space in the 21st century.
UNISPACE III outlined a wide variety of actions to:
Protect the global environment and manage natural resources;
Increase the use of space applications for human security, development and welfare;
Protect the space environment;
Increase developing countries' access to space science and its benefits.
UNISPACE III concluded with the Space Millennium: Vienna Declaration on Space and Human Development (Vienna Declaration), which contained 33 recommendations as elements of a strategy to address new challenges in outer space activities
Five years after the last major international conference on outer space, UNISPACE III, the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) reviewed the implementation of the 33 recommendations of the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (A/59/174).
The Office is headed by a Director and has two sections: the Space Applications Section, which organizes and carries out the United Nations Programme on Space Applications, and the Committee, Policy and Legal Affairs Section, which provides substantive secretariat services to the Committee, its two subcommittees and its working groups. The Committee, Policy and Legal Affairs Section also prepares and distributes reports and publications on international space activities and on international space law.
Ms. Simonetta Di Pippo of Italy serves as Director of the Office since March 2014.
Committee, Policy and Legal Affairs Section (CPLA)
As part of UNOOSA efforts to support the intergovernmental processes in the area of space activities that take place within the United Nations framework, the Committee, Policy and Legal Affairs Section of UNOOSA provides substantive secretariat services to the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), its Scientific and Technical Subcommittee and Legal Subcommittee and related working groups.
CPLA also provides substantive secretariat services to the Working Group of the Whole of the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) of the General Assembly when it considers the item on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.
As UNOOSA leads UN-Space (the Inter-Agency Meeting on Outer Space Activities), CPLA convenes and services the sessions of UN-Space.
Comprising staff with legal, policy and economics background, the CPLA team works closely with UN Member States in supporting their capacity building efforts in space activities and in building national space infrastructure, by organizing workshops on space law and policy, as well as on organizational questions relating to international cooperation in space activities and on United Nations space-related activities. CPLA also works with other actors, such as regional organizations and mechanisms, in support of their efforts and cooperation in space activities.
Mr. Niklas Hedman of Sweden serves as Chief of the Committee, Policy and Legal Affairs Section since January 2006.
Space Applications Section (SAS)
As a result of the shifting emphasis from scientific exploration of outer space to the practical applications of space technology, the Office has been increasingly involved in implementing decisions of the Committee and its subsidiary bodies related to the promotion of international cooperation in the uses of space technology for economic and social development. Beginning with the first United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE) in 1968, the Office has carried out programmes designed to disseminate information and provide training in the practical applications of space technology, in particular for developing countries.
After the Second Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE 82) in 1982, the General Assembly, in its resolution 37/90 of 10 December 1982, expanded the mandate of the Programme on Space Applications to include promoting the development of indigenous capabilities in the developing countries.
Since its inception in 1971, the Programme has organized, among other activities, over 150 training courses, workshops and conferences attended by more than 7,500 participants.
Mr Takao Doi of Japan serves as the Expert on Space Applications and Chief of the Space Applications Section since September 2009.
The Office leverages and forges partnerships with governmental, intergovernmental, non-governmental and private sector institutions to achieve its goals. Such collaboration enables the implementation of a diverse programme enriched by knowledge and expertise not always readily available within the Office and provides a further avenue for strengthening international cooperation. Engagement with other entities of the United Nations on the use of space-related technologies is conducted through UN-Space.
Presently the Office benefits from strategic alliances with entities and space-related institutions of Austria, China, Germany, Japan, the United States of America as well as the European Commission, European Space Agency, Digital Globe, COSPAR, IAA, IAF, IISL, ISPRS, Kyushu Institute of Technology, the Politecnico di Torino and Instituto Superiore Mario Boella and Secure World Foundation. Cooperation with the UN-affiliated Regional Centres for Space Science and Technology Education located in China, Brazil and Mexico, India, Jordan, Nigeria and Morocco as well as the network of UN-SPIDER Regional Support Offices is well established.
United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs
United Nations Office at Vienna
Vienna International Centre,
Telephone: +43-1-260 60 4950
Fax: +43-1-260 60 5830