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UN committee approves space sustainability guidelines

A working group of COPUOS. Image Courtesy: UN Office of Outer Space Affairs

Canada: A United Nations (UN) committee reached an agreement last week on nine guidelines that aim to reduce the risk of collisions in space and other harmful space activities.

The non-binding guidelines, which have been approved by a working group of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the UN’s Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), are intended to improve the long-term sustainability of space. They join 12 other guidelines on the topic approved by the committee in 2016.

“The guidelines discussed by the working group recognize the fragility of the space environment and the current and future threats that need to be addressed if we are to ensure that space can be effectively used in the future,” David Kendall, chairman of COPUOS, said

The nine guidelines include a host of issues, including improved registration of space objects and sharing of information about them, and observing precautions when using lasers in outer space.

The guidelines do not carry any legal force in and of themselves, but member nations are encouraged to incorporate them into their laws and regulations.

The working group originally had a four-year mandate, but while it achieved no consensus on guidelines at the end of the four years, it had made significant progress for COPUOS to extend the group for two years.