United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs

United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space:
History and Overview of Activities

In 1958, shortly after the launching of the first artificial satellite, the General Assembly decided to establish an ad hoc Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (resolution 1348 (XIII)), with 18 members, in order to consider:

  • the activities and resources of the United Nations, the specialized agencies and other international bodies relating to the peaceful uses of outer space;
  • international cooperation and programmes in the field that could appropriately be undertaken under United Nations auspices;
  • organizational arrangements to facilitate international cooperation in the field within the framework of the United Nations; and
  • legal problems which might arise in programmes to explore outer space.

In 1959, the General Assembly established the Committee as a permanent body and reaffirmed its mandate in resolution 1472 (XIV). In 1961, the General Assembly, considering that the United Nations should provide a focal point international cooperation in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space, requested the Committee, in cooperation with the Secretary-General and making full use of the functions and resources of the Secretariat;

  • to maintain close contact with governmental and non-governmental organizations concerned with outer space matters;
  • to provide for the exchange of such information relating to outer space activities as Governments may supply on a voluntary basis, supplementing, but not duplicating, existing technical and scientific exchanges; and
  • to assist in the study of measures for the promotion of international cooperation in outer space activities.

The resolution also requested the Secretary-General to maintain a public registry of launchings based on the information supplied by States launching objects into orbit or beyond (resolution 1721(XVI)).

Those terms of reference have since provided the general guidance for the activities of the Committee in promoting international cooperation in the peaceful uses and exploration of outer space.

In 1959, the Committee had 24 members. Since then it has grown to 77 members - one of the largest Committees in the United Nations. In addition to States a number of international organizations, including both intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, have observer status with COPUOS and its Subcommittees.

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