Space Debris Plan Approved

Article excerpt

Two texts - a multi-year work plan for dealing with the hazards of space debris, and a questionaire on legal norms to apply to aerospace objects, including future transportation vehicles - were approved by the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space at its thirty-eighth session (12-22 June, Vienna).

The Committee - a focal point of UN activities in promoting international cooperation to use and maintain outer space for peaceful purposes - acted by adopting its report (A/50/20) to the General Assembly, which contains the recommendations of its two Subcommittees: on scientific and technical, as well as on legal matters.

The work plan deals with all man-made objects in orbit around the Earth, including defunct and fragmentized satellites. The Scientific and Technical Subcommittee was asked to review, in 1996, the dimensions of various debris and the effect of their possible collisions with space systems.

In 1997, it would consider mathematical models to locate and chart the path of space debris and, in 1998, concentrate on mitigation measures and protection of spacecraft against collisions.

The questionnaire, developed by the Legal Subcommittee, would seek the Committee members' views on definition of aerospace objects, such as space shuttles capable of transiting between sovereign air space and outer space. Responses would serve as guidelines for discussions on a legal framework to govern such transit.

On other issues, the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee was asked to continue consideration, in 1996, of all proposals on a third UN conference on the exploration and peaceful uses of outer space (UNISPACE III), with a view to convening the event before the end of the century. Two previous conferences - in 1968 and 1982 - took place in Viena.

With regard to the 1992 Principles Relevant to the Use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space, the Committee agreed to postpone their revision. …