Small Satellites, Space Debris, Sharing Outer Space Benefits Considered by Two Subcommittees

UN Chronicle, Summer 1996 | Go to article overview

Small Satellites, Space Debris, Sharing Outer Space Benefits Considered by Two Subcommittees


Prospects for using small satellites to bring the benefits of space technology to developing countries and discoveries in measuring and assessing the dangers posed by space debris--man-made objects in orbit around the Earth, including defunct and fragmentized satellites--were among the key issues reviewed by the thirty-third session (12-23 February, Vienna) of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

The Committee's other subsidiary body--the Legal Subcommittee--ended its thirty-fifth session (18-28 March, Vienna) with a new compromise text on how best to ensure that the benefits of space research were shared with developing countries. The draft, formulated as a resolution for the General Assembly's consideration, represented a breakthrough in debate on the subject, since it emphasized that States were free to determine all aspects of their cooperation in the exploration and use of outer space on an equitable and mutually acceptable basis. Modes of cooperation would be tailored to suit the countries concerned.

An earlier proposal by Brazil and 11 other developing countries had focused on the development of indigenous space capabilities by all States, exchange of material and equipment, and transfer of technology. A counterproposal, sponsored by Germany and France, had stressed that States' participation in such cooperation should be guided by the need to allocate resources efficiently.

Among other issues, the Legal Subcommittee found that there was no need to review or revise the principles governing the use of nuclear power sources in outer space, adopted by the Assembly in 1992.

It continued discussion on the definition of outer space and the use of the geostationary orbit, which is located approximately 22,300 miles directly above the Equator and permits continuous contact between a satellite and a single ground station. …

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Small Satellites, Space Debris, Sharing Outer Space Benefits Considered by Two Subcommittees
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