Long-term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities

Photo: UN PhotoSpace science and space applications advance our knowledge of the universe. They also improve the daily lives of people worldwide through their contributions to environmental monitoring, management of natural resources, meteorological forecasting, climate modelling, satellite navigation, communications, and early warning systems to help mitigate potential disasters. If the international community wishes to increase access to the benefits of current space applications, and develop new technologies which may offer further benefits, there is a need to preserve and protect the outer space environment for use by future generations. Space activities need to be sustainable over the long term. 

Throughout the years, the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space has considered different aspects of the long-term sustainability of outer space activities. Building on previous efforts, in 2010 the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee began considering as an agenda item the long-term sustainability of outer space. A Working Group on the Long-term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities was established, the objectives of which include identifying areas of concern for the long-term sustainability of outer space activities, proposing measures that could enhance sustainability, and producing voluntary guidelines to reduce risks to long-term sustainability. The Working Group and its expert groups addressed thematic areas including sustainable space utilization supporting sustainable development on Earth; space debris, space operations and tools to support collaborative space situational awareness; space weather; and regulatory regimes and guidance for actors in the space arena.

In June 2016 the Committee agreed to a first set of guidelines for the long-term sustainability of outer space activities ( A/71/20, Annex). In 2018, consensus was reached on a preamble and nine additional guidelines  (   A/AC.105/1167, Annex III and A/73/20 ). The Working Group was, however, unable to reach consensus on its final report or on how to refer the preamble and guidelines to the General Assembly.

The long-term sustainability of outer space activities continues as an agenda item of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee. States members of the Committee may develop further written proposals on ways to continue work on the topic of the long-term sustainability of outer space activities, and such proposals may be considered in 2019 at the fifty-sixth session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, and, as warranted, at the fifty-eighth session of the Legal Subcommittee.

See below for recent documents relating to the long-term sustainability of outer space activities. For more documents, search the Documents Database.

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