COSPAR and the United Nations

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) works to help all countries, especially developing countries, access and leverage the benefits of space to accelerate sustainable development through a variety of activities that cover all aspects related to space, from space law to space applications. UNOOSA provides the Secretariat services to the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) and its two Subcommittees, the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee and the Legal Subcommittee. Since its establishment in 1959, COPUOS has been serving as a focal point for international cooperation in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space, maintaining close contacts with governmental and non-governmental organizations concerned with outer space activities. Today, COPUOS has 102 Member States and 45 Observer Organizations.

COSPAR was the first organization to be granted an observer status in COPUOS in 1962, and it has worked with UNCOPUOS and UNOOSA since then on a variety of topics of joint interest to both organizations, covered under a Memorandum of Understanding.

COSPAR resources and activities linked to the United Nations can be found under the links below. Professor Hermann Opgenoorth, Vice-Chair of our Panel on Space Weather, is our COSPAR Liaison to the United Nations.

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COSPAR fulfills its responsibilities to provide accepted guidelines on planetary protection to guide compliance with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty and other international agreements. This is managed through the work of the COSPAR Panel on Planetary Protection.

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COSPAR is an observer in the UNOOSA International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (ICG), through our Panel on Satellite Dynamics (PSD).

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The COSPAR Panel on Potentially Environmentally Detrimental Activities in Space (PEDAS) acts to evaluate environmental impacts by space activities, e.g. space debris, to advise the international community, in particular UNCOPUOS.

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The COSPAR Panel on Space Weather (PSW) informs the international community and in particular UNCOPUOS on scientific consensus and recommendations pertaining to space weather. UNCOPUOS has recently asked COSPAR, WMO and ISES to set up a joint Work Group on space weather related matters, and in response to a letter from UNCOPUOS in June 2022, representatives from WMO-ISES-COSPAR met in Coimbra in September 2022 and agreed on the Coimbra Declaration as the basis for their partnership –The WMO-ISES-COSPAR Coimbra Declaration. The WMO-ISES-COSPAR Coordination Team will continue to drive this partnership.  WMO-ISES-COSPAR have brought together a number of international organizations engaged in space weather into an International Space Weather Coordination Forum (ISWCF) with the aim to explore pathways to increased coordination of their activities, and to identify areas where coordination is lacking. Outcomes of the Forum include Top Level Summary and Statement of Intent.

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The Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (SMPAG) of states with space agencies, facilitated by the United Nations on behalf of the international community, is responsible for laying out the framework, timeline and options for initiating and executing response activities, informing the civil-defence community about the nature of NEO impact disasters, and incorporating that community into the overall mitigation planning process.  The current Chair of SMPAG is the European Space Agency (ESA).  It has 19 Members and 6 Observers, including COSPAR.

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COSPAR also organizes regular Symposia for participants to the UNCOPUOS Scientific and Technical Subcommittee sessions.  These Symposia were jointly organized with IAF between 1986 and 2007, and then by COSPAR in 2011, 2015, 2017 and 2019.  The next event, dedicated to “Space-based Earth Observation supporting Climate Action”, took place on 14 February 2023 during STSC 60. The full webcast of this Symposium is available to watch with this link on UN WebTV, starting at 31:00:

It is worth noting that most, if not all, of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals defined under the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development benefit from contributions from space science and technology development.

Home page of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs.

Web resource of COPUOS.

Pictures © United Nation, ESA, Wikipedia