United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs

Basic Space Technology Initiative (BSTI)

Since the organization of the Third United Nations Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III) in 1999 there has been considerable progress in the operational use of space technology and its applications for sustainable development. Space-based assets such as telecommunication, Earth Observation and navigation satellites support a wide range of applications and are increasingly integrated into public infrastructures and contribute to policy- and decision making in support of sustainable development to improve people's lives. In practice all countries today are users of space-based solutions.

Several countries that have previously been users of space applications are interested in establishing basic capacities in space technology development. This desire has partially been guided by the fact that increasingly capable small satellites can be developed with an infrastructure and at a cost that is today also affordable to universities and smaller institutions. There have been recent examples where university-based small satellite projects have led to the establishment of small and medium-sized space enterprises that are now marketing their products on a commercial and world-wide basis. Such developments not only create new opportunities for international space cooperation but also contribute to further promoting the use of space technology and its applications.

In reaction to these developments a new activity line in the framework of the United Nations Programme on Space Applications, the United Nations Basic Space Technology Initiative (BSTI), will support capacity building in basic space technology. Initially the activities will focus on small satellites and their applications in support of sustainable development. Other activities under consideration are related to space technology education, such as the development of an education curriculum for basic space technology or cooperation with educational institutions world-wide to identify relevant long-term fellowship opportunities.


To enhance access to space application tools for sustainable development through building capacity in basic space technology


  • Respond to the growing interest in many countries to establish indigenous capacities in basic space technology
  • Address the increasing role of small (nano-) satellites for education, basic space science and for operational applications
  • Assist countries to ensure adherence to the relevant regulatory frameworks and promote the use of standards
  • Promote international cooperation and information exchange in capacity building in basic space technology

Basic Space Technology Initiative Workplan

I. Basic Activities

  • United Nations/Austria/European Space Agency Symposiums on Small Satellite Programmes (2009-2011)
  • Regulatory and legal aspects (registration, frequencies, space debris…)
  • Launch Opportunities
  • Orbital Data Information and Conjunction Assessement Service
  • Open Standards and Standardization

II. International Symposiums on Basic Space Technology Development

III. Space Technology Education Curriculum

  • Basic Space Technology Education Directory based on a survey of Aerospace Engineering and Small Satellite Programmes
  • Development of a Space Technology Education Curriculum

IV. Establishment of Long-term Fellowship Programmes

  • United Nations/Japan Long-term Fellowship Programme on Nano-Satellite Technologies

V. BSTI Projects

  • HUMSAT project and GEOID initiative
  • International Space University Space Studies Programme 2011 Team Project on Small Satellites

Basic Space Technology Initiative Documents and Presentations

UNISPACE III and United Nations/International Academy of Astronautics Workshops

A background paper on small satellite missions was prepared for the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III), held in Vienna irom 18 to 23 July 1999.

  • UNISPACE III, Background Paper 9, "Small Satellite Missions", 26 May 1998 ( A/CONF.184/BP/9)

Within the framework of the Technical Forum of UNISPACE III, the United Nations, in cooperation with the International Academy of Astronautics, held a workshop on small satellites at the service of developing countries.

  • UNISPACE III, "Report of the Technical Forum", 28 July 1999 ( A/CONF.184/L.13)
  • UNISPACE III, Technical Forum, "Conclusions and proposals of the Workshop on Small Satellites at the Service of Developing Countries", 27 July 1999 ( A/CONF.184/C.2/L.7)

In follow up to this workshop, since 2000, the Office for Outer Space Affairs, in cooperation with the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA), has held annual workshops on the theme small satellites at the service of developing countries as part of the programme of the annual International Astronautical Congress.

  • The Latin American Experience, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 5 October 2000 ( A/AC.105/745)
  • The African Perspective, Toulouse, France, 2 October 2001 ( A/AC.105/772)
  • Beyond Technology Transfer, Houston, United States of America, 12 October 2002 ( A/AC.105/799)
  • A Contribution to Sustainable Development, Bremen, Germany, 30 September 2003 ( A/AC.105/813)
  • Current and Planned Small Satellite Programmes, Vancouver, Canada, 5 October 2004 ( A/AC.105/835)
  • Fukuoka, Japan, 19 October 2005 ( A/AC.105/855)
  • Valencia, Spain, 3 October 2006 ( A/AC.105/884)
  • Hyderabad, India, 25 September 2007 ( A/AC.105/897)
  • Glasgow, Scotland, 30 September 2008 (no report)
  • Daejeon, Republic of Korea, 13 October 2009 ( A/AC.105/971)
  • Prague, Czech Republic, 28 September 2010 ( A/AC.105/1016)
  • Capetown, South Africa, 4 October 2011 (no report)
  • Napoli, Italy, 2 October 2012 (no report)
  • Beijing, China, 24 September 2013 (no report)

Space Industry Symposiums

UNISPACE III included a large number of space industry participants. As a follow-up, the Office for Outer Space Affairs has organized, since 2000, a series of symposiums to strengthen the partnership with industry. The symposiums are being held on the margins of the annual sessions of the COPUOS Scientific and Technical Subcommittee. Some of the symposium have also addressed the issues of establishing a basic space industry capacity and basic space technology development capabilities.

Other Background Information

The use of small satellites has been addressed by the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space since the mid-1990s. The documents of the Committee on this topic are listed below.

  • Microsatellites and Small Satellites: Current Projects and Future Perspectives for International Cooperation, 2 November 1995 ( A/AC.105/611)
  • Symposium on Utilization of Micro- and Small Satellites for the Expansion of Low-cost Space Activities, Taking into Account the Special Needs of Developing Countries, 12-13 February 1996 ( A/AC.105/638)
  • Report on the United Nations/Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial/European Space Agency International Conference on Small Satellites: Missions and Technology, Madrid, 9-13 September 1996 ( A/AC.105/645)

Contact Information

Werner Balogh
Programme Officer Basic Space Science & Technology
Space Applications Section
Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA)
United Nations Office at Vienna (UNOV)
E-0963, PO Box 500, 1400 Vienna, Austria
Tel.:      (+43-1) 26060-4952
Fax:      (+43-1) 26060-7-4952
Email:   bsti@unoosa.org

This page was last updated on 17 April 2015.

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