Vignettes from Vienna

(That's Vienna, Austria, home of UNOV -- the United Nations Office at Vienna -- not Vienna, Virgina, headquarters of Space Adventures...)
While the
50th session of the UN's Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) goes on in Vienna this week (June 6th to 15th; more on that later), COPUOS has now posted the report of the 46th session of its Legal Subcommittee, (which as you recall took place at UNOV March 26th to April 5th).

If you were holding your breath waiting for this 35-page report (and who wasn't?) (actually, the English version is 35 pages; I did not open the Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian or Spanish documents), a quickie recap highlighting issues and topics addressed this session (some old, some new; none borrowed or blue):

  • The five United Nations space treaties:
    -- Here is this year's overview,
    Status of International Agreements relating to Activities in Outer Space. (No surprises; I may post separately a few details from this.)

  • Activities of international intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations relating to space law:
    -- Action packed
    report (with addendum) on recent work of friends of the Subcommittee including the Space Law Committee of the International Law Association, International Institute of Space Law (IISL) and the European Centre for Space Law (ECSL), (covering a lot of stuff we've talked about here on SLP).
    -- As I've posted, the well-received symposium on
    Capacity building in space law took place during this session, sponsored by the IISL and ECSL.
    --The Subcommittee was treated to a presentation entitled “WIPO: patents and space activities” by Tomoko Miyamoto of the World Intellectual Property Organization which is not posted; I'll try to get a copy.

  • Definition and delimitation of outer space and use of the geostationary orbit:
    -- Big news! Issue about where space begins is resolved, finally! Not. This will be on the agenda until the 5,946th session. (One theory is the Neanderthal went extinct debating it.)
    -- See, Report of the Chairman of the Working Group on the Definition and Delimitation of Outer Space at Annex II, p. 27.

  • Draft protocol on matters specific to space assets to the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment:
    -- Subcommittee received a "comprehensive" status report from the observer for Unidroit. Work continues.
    -- For more background on the work on the draft protocol, see this
    SLP post.

  • Registration of space objects:
    -- Proposal for "a General Assembly resolution on recommendations on the practice of States and international organizations in registering space objects, to be adopted in 2007;" see the
    working paper of the Working Group on the Practice of States and International Organizations in Registering Space Objects for text of the proposal (which COPUOS is no doubt reviewing as I post).
    -- In 2006, national registries of space objects established by Brazil, Indonesia and Kazakhstan, which registered its first communication satellite, KazSat, under the Register of Objects Launched into Outer Space.
    -- I will add stats we've seen on registration of space objects show clearly, as the International Law Association's Space Law Committee notes, registration of objects launched into space has been
    going downhill. (2006 Toronto conference report.)

  • Review and possible revision of the Principles Relevant to the Use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space:
    -- Subcommittee "will continue examining the issue" (of course)
    -- For more on these discussions, see verbatim transcripts at COPUOS/Legal/T.756-758 (which do not yet but will appear on the
    transcripts archive).

  • New items to be considered by the Legal Subcommittee:
    -- My favorite, the Subcommittee agreed to include “General exchange of information on national legislation relevant to the peaceful exploration and use of outer space proposed by the United States," starting in 2008.
    -- The Subcommittee also agreed to invite IISL and ECSL to host a symposium at the next session on "Legal Implications of Space Applications for Global Climate Change." Looking forward to it.
    -- Surprisingly, no specific ironclad proposal to amend, revise, renegotiate, undo, abandon or eliminate the Outer Space Treaty.

  • The Legal Subcommittee meets again in Vienna, March 2008.

    Oh, and yes, of course. The Subcommittee called 2007 "a memorable year for the Committee and the space community, celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the launching of the first artificial satellite, the fiftieth session of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and the fortieth anniversary of the adoption of the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (General Assembly resolution 2222 (XXI), annex)." It said "in the 40 years since the adoption of the Outer Space Treaty, space activities had become indispensable for sustainable development, contributing to economic growth and improvements in the quality of life around the world."


    Thanks to Kurian Maniyanipurathu of the Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA), Space Applications Section for the heads-up on the Legal Subcommittee report.

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