International Initiatives to Ensure Space Sustainability

Over the last few years, three new initiatives have been created to deal with some of the challenges posed by space sustainability. These initiatives differ from historical efforts in that they are "bottom-up" initiatives that seek to develop voluntary guidelines or norms of behavior, and in some cases involve input from non-State actors.

International Space Code of Conduct

In 2010, the European Union introduced a "Draft International Code of Conduct on Outer Space Activities" for consideration by the world community. The draft code is an attempt to spell out a broad set of best practices or norms of behavior for operating in outer space. Several countries have, in principle, agreed to work with the European Union to develop appropriate wording for such a code. Discussions on the details of such an agreement are ongoing. More details can be found in this SWF fact sheet.

UN COPUOS Long-Term Sustainability Working Group

In 2009, the French delegation proposed the creation of a UN COPUOS Working Group on the Long Term Sustainability of Space Activities (LTSSA). UN COPUOS adopted this proposal, formed a Working Group and adopted Terms of Reference (TOR) for the effort in 2011. It decided to group the work into four Expert Groups:

  1. Sustainable space utilization supporting sustainable development on Earth;
  2. Space debris, space operations and tools to support collaborative space situational awareness;
  3. Space weather;
  4. Regulatory regimes and guidance for actors in the space arena.

State delegations were invited to nominate experts to each expert group. The Expert Groups concluded in 2013 and provided their recommendations to the Working Group of States. The Working Group is currently discussing the draft guidelines and is scheduled to complete its work in June 2016. More details on the LTS Working Group can be found in this SWF fact sheet.

Group of Governmental Experts

In 2010, Russia proposed that the UN Secretary General appoint a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) to explore possible transparency and confidence-building measures (TCBMs) for outer space. The UNGA adopted this proposal and 15 States proposed experts to take part in the GGE. Its objectives are to improve international cooperation and reduce the risks of misunderstanding and miscommunication in outer space activities. The ultimate goal is to produce a consensus report that outlines conclusions and recommendations on TCBMs that can help ensure stability in the space domain. The GGE began a series of meetings in July 2012 and delivered its report to the Secretary General in 2013. More details can be found in this SWF fact sheet

Next: Improving Space Situational Awareness

Last updated on February 4, 2015