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The 1999 UNCOPUOS "Technical report on space debris" and the new work plan on space debris (2002 - 2005): perspectives and legal consequences

Benkö, Marietta 1, Schrogl, Kai-uwe1
Affiliation data not available1

Document details

Publishing year2001 PublisherESA Publishing typeConference Name of conference3rd European Conference on Space Debris
Pagesn/a Volume
H. Lacoste


In February 1999, the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee (STSC) of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) adopted a "Technical Report on Space Debris". This was the result of intensive negotiations during a multi-year workplan on space debris, which had been the centerpiece of the technical work of the STSC during these years. The Report is the first document on space debris, presenting the status of space debris research and the problems resulting from space debris. It has the status of an analysis accepted by all governments. Following its adoption, the Report was presented to UNISPACE III and provided the basis for discussions in this Inter-governmental Conference as well as in the Technical Forum, which - at the same time - dealt with the technical as well as the legal aspects of the exploration and use of outer space. The adoption of the Conference Report finalized the workplan in the STSC, but the subject of space debris still remains on the agenda, where until now every year a special aspect is discussed in detail. The Report does not suggest the establishment of an agenda item "space debris" in the UNCOPUOS Legal Subcommittee (LSC). It is very reluctant in even mentioning legal aspects of the space debris issue. The strict and full concentration on technical aspects was a precondition made by a number of Member States for their constructive participation in the elaboration to establish an agenda item on space debris there, were completely detached from that process. Those, who had expected that the adoption of the Report would inevitably lead to formal negotiations in the LSC were deceived so far. Nevertheless, the Report provides a number of starting points for drafting regulation concerning the prevention of space debris as well as debris mitigation measures which also built on work already done by the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC) and its member agencies. This paper describes the status of the disucssion on space debris in UNCOPUOS on the background of the Debris Report, the European position and the new multi-year work plan on space debris in STSC for the years 2002 to 2005, which is based on an initiative by the United States. In addition, it takes the deorbiting of the Russian space station MIR as the starting point for discussing an adequate reaction by the UN General Assembly, which could be prepared in the June 2001 session of UNCOPUOS.