United Nations/South Africa Symposium on Basic Space Technology
"Small Satellite Missions for Scientific and Technological Advancement"

Stellenbosch, South Africa, 11 - 15 December 2017

Co-organized by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs and the Government of the Republic of South Africa

Co-sponsored by the European Space Agency




Online registration closed (Application deadline is 15 August 2017 for applicants seeking funding support and 15 October 2017 for self-funded applicants.)
Please ensure that your application is complete and correct before submitting. Once you have submitted your application, you will not be able to make further changes.


Space technology and its wide range of applications contribute essential information and services to many aspects of sustainable development, that is, economic and social development and environmental conservation and protection. Small satellite missions are becoming increasingly important in supporting these roles of space technology, as well as in the advancement of basic space science and technology, notably through capacity building. In 2009, the United Nations Programme on Space Applications, implemented by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, launched the Basic Space Technology Initiative (BSTI) in support of capacity-building for the development of basic space technology.

From 2009 to 2011 a series of three United Nations/Austria/European Space Agency Symposiums on Small Satellite Programmes for Sustainable Development were held in Graz, Austria. Starting from 2012, BSTI is organizing international symposiums on basic space technology in the regions that correspond to the United Nations Economic Commissions for Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Western Asia.

The first Symposium was held as the United Nations/Japan Nano-Satellite Symposium, hosted by the University of Tokyo and the University Space Engineering Consortium (UNISEC) in Nagoya, Japan, from 10-13 October 2012. The second Symposium was held as the United Nations/United Arab Emirates Symposium on Basic Space Technology, hosted by the Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from 20-23 October 2013. The third Symposium was held as the United Nations/Mexico Symposium on Basic Space Technology hosted by the Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education (CICESE) and the Mexican Space Agency in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, from 20-23 October 2014.

The present and fourth Symposium will be held as the United Nations/South Africa Symposium on Basic Space Technology in Stellenbosch and will focus on the African region. It is organized by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs in cooperation with the Department of Science and Technology and the Stellenbosch University, on behalf of the Government of the Republic of South Africa.

Symposium Objectives

The Symposium objectives will build on the outcomes of the aforementioned BSTI Symposiums held from 2009 to 2013. The relevant symposium reports, containing the objectives, symposium summaries, observations and recommendations made by participants are available from the BSTI Resources page.

The objectives of the UN/South Africa Symposium will be to:

  1. Review the status of capacity-building in basic space technology for small satellites including lessons learned from the past and on-going development activities with a focus on regional and international collaboration opportunities, in particular for countries in Africa;
  2. Examine issues relevant to the implementation of small satellite programmes, such as organizational capacity-building, development and testing infrastructure and launch opportunities;
  3. Review state-of-the-art scientific applications of small satellite programmes and their associated supporting technological developments, in particular with focus on applications for agriculture, environment and city monitoring, and education to promote a sustainable growth, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development;
  4. Elaborate on regulatory issues of space technology development programmes, such as frequency allocation and space debris mitigation measures for enhancing the long-term sustainability of outer space activities as well as import/export controls;
  5. Elaborate on legal issues and responsibilities related to space technology development programmes, such as those that are raised from the relevant provisions in international space law;
  6. Discuss the way forward for the Basic Space Technology Initiative (BSTI), and its capacity-building and international cooperation activities in preparation of UNISPACE+50.

Expected Outcomes and Contributions to UNISPACE+50

The Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) endorsed at its fifty-ninth session a series of seven thematic priorities for UNISPACE+50 (see A/71/20,para.296), which are further described in the Thematic Priorities booklet.

With the main objective of BSTI and the associated series of workshops related to "Capacity-building for the 21st century" (Thematic Priority 7), the UN/South Africa Symposium will review the different initiatives including lessons learnt of past and ongoing activities in the small satellite missions domain. The Symposium objectives reflect this approach, while focusing on capacity-building, it encompasses activities for the legal framework, agriculture, environment and city monitoring to name a few, benefiting other thematic priorities such as:

  • Thematic Priority 1, related to objectives 7 and 1 listed above, by promoting international collaboration and cooperation activities
  • Thematic Priorities 2 and 3, being addressed by objectives 4 and 5, by supporting and raising awareness on regulatory issues affecting as well small satellite missions involving frequency allocation, registry of space objects, space debris mitigation measures, import/export control and other legal responsibilities
  • Thematic Priority 6, linked to objective 3, reviewing the role of small satellites in sustainable and resilient cities and societies, assessing their potential for Earth Observation

The discussions at the Conference will inform the preparations towards UNISPACE+50, which will be held in 2018 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the first United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in 1968. The observations and recommendations of the Conference will contribute to the UNISPACE+50 process and will be brought to the attention of relevant policy- and decision making bodies.

Symposium Programme

The Symposium programme will be structured around a series of dedicated topical sessions. Presentations will be solicited through a Call for Papers. In addition, renowned experts in the field will be invited to make some of the presentations. The participants will consider specific topics and discuss observations and recommendations for consideration by COPUOS. Appropriate time will be set aside for discussions and for short presentations by the participants on their own relevant activities.

The following topics will be considered in dedicated sessions:

  • Space Technology Development and Capacity-Building in Basic Space Technology Development with a focus on Africa
    This session will address space technology development and capacity-building activities, including know-how transfer programmes and opportunities for regional and international cooperation with a focus on, but not limited to, activities in Africa.
  • Small Satellite Missions in Support of Key Scientific Projects and Questions
    Small satellites, including CubeSat platforms, are becoming increasingly more capable to support science and application missions. The present session will address the role of small satellite platforms for science missions. For example, the possible use of small satellites in support of key scientific projects, such as the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) in South Africa, shall be discussed.
  • Applications of Small Satellite Missions
    Small satellites have been developed for a wide range of application missions, including telecommunication, navigation and Earth Observation services. They can offer cost-efficient solutions to replace or complement more expensive, larger satellite missions. This session will also consider the development of small satellite standards, and cost and reliability issues of small satellite missions in comparison to those of larger satellite platforms.
  • Small Satellite Missions Ground Segment
    For many universities and research institutions, the set-up of a ground station is the first step towards further small satellite development activities. This session will consider aspects of ground segment development for small satellite missions, including ground stations, technical equipment, software tools and procedures for mission development and operations.
  • Small Satellite Projects for Engineering Education
    Over the last few years a large number of small satellite missions, by a growing number of space actors, have been launched and hundreds more are expected to be launched in the near future. This session will provide a review of small satellite projects worldwide in support of capacity building and engineering education. Challenges such as testing facilities and launching opportunities will also be discussed.
  • Legal and Regulatory Issues
    Legal and regulatory considerations play an important role in the conduct of outer space activities. The session will include a workshop on frequency coordination offered by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and presentations and discussions on relevant national and international legal and regulatory issues.
  • Long-term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities
    The international space community is discussing measures that may be necessary to assure the long-term sustainability of outer space activities. In these discussions, the growing number of small satellite missions, in particular in the context of space debris mitigation, is increasingly under scrutiny. This session will provide an update on the status of these discussions in COPUOS as well as presentations on operational and technical means in support of space debris mitigation.

Kindly note that the Symposium organizers may modify the number and themes of sessions of the final programme.

In addition to the sessions described above, there will be panel discussions to share experiences and lessons learned through capacity-building activities in space technology development as well as to promote opportunities for international and regional collaborations among the participants. The sessions will be supplemented by a poster session as well as by an exhibition, demonstrations of relevant software tools, technical visits and practical hands-on exercises.

The co-sponsors will also organize an attractive programme of side-events for all Symposium participants. The detailed Symposium programme will be made available on this website.

Location and Date

Dates: The Workshop will be held from 11 to 15 December 2017 in Stellenbosch University, South Africa. Invited participants will receive a formal invitation letter with further information on available accommodation, logistics and other local arrangements prior to the Symposium.

Venue: The Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study


Language of the Workshop

Applicants must have a good working knowledge of English, which will be the official working language of the Symposium.


Symposium participants should be involved in the planning or implementation of space technology development activities in international or national space agencies, governmental or non-governmental organizations, research institutions, industry, universities or other academic institutions. Participants are expected to have obtained university degrees in relevant fields of study or should be enrolled in relevant studies. Professional working experience in one of the fields related to the theme of the Symposium is desirable. Applications from qualified female applicants are particularly encouraged.

Support to Qualified Applicants

Applicants and their nominating organizations are strongly encouraged to find their own sources of sponsorship to participate in the Symposium. However, within the limited financial resources available to the co-sponsors, a number of qualified applicants from developing and emerging economies expressing the need for financial support will be offered financial support to attend the Symposium. This may include the provision of a round-trip air ticket between Cape Town Airport and the applicant's international airport of departure and/or room and board for the duration of the Symposium. En-route and other expenses or any changes made to an air ticket provided by the co-sponsors must be borne by the participants. Selected applicants will be notified in August-September 2017.

Life and Health Insurance

Life and major health insurance is the responsibility of each selected participant or his/her nominating institution or government. The co-organizers will not assume any responsibility for life and major health insurance, nor for any expenses related to medical treatment or accidents.

Deadline for Submission of Applications

Applications for participating in the Workshop have to be submitted online through this webpage (see top of page).

The completed applications including the signature page with signatures and seals must be received by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs no later than 15 August 2017 from applicants seeking funding support and no later than 15 October 2017 from self-funded applicants. Only complete applications received by these deadlines will be considered.


For questions related to the Workshop programme and participation opportunities, please contact us.

For latest information and updates on the Workshop, it is advised that you frequently visit this webpage.


An industry exhibition will be organized as part of the Symposium.
For details on exhibition opportunities, please contact:
Ms. Leehandi de Witt

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Reference Materials


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