Statement on Sustainability at the 56th session of the Scientific-Technical Sub-Committee of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS)


56th Session, Vienna, 11 February - 22 February 2019 - Germany                         

Item 12: Long-term sustainability of outer space activities

Madam Chair,

Distinguished Delegates,

as the benefits of space activities expand in number and improve in quality, keeping outer space available for peaceful activities will become ever more important. Thus, we are presented with both opportunities but also challenges: increased amount of space debris and a growing gap between technological progress and the regulatory framework. Against this background the work of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space gains particular relevance and importance.

Therefore, Germany expresses its delight and appreciation that the Working Group on the Long Term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee during its last session was able to achieve consensus on 21 Guidelines.

However, this cannot mean that the discussion about the long-term sustainability of outer space activities is completed.

On the one hand, it is now of uttermost importance to implement the LTS Guidelines in national normative and regulatory frameworks. Germany intends to ensure this within the running process of adopting national outer space legislation. Within our national space projects, we closely monitor the compliance with internationally recognized standards and guidelines, such as those developed through the IADC, UNCOPUOS or the International Organization for Standardization.

On the other hand, we will need to continue to work to improve mutual understanding among space nations, enhance the safety of space activities and step up exchanges of information on the Earth’s orbital environment.

Germany is convinced that through UNOOSA and UNCOPUOS, States can maintain a crucial conversation on all these issues. It is important to keep in mind that the pace of evolution in international space cooperation and regulation depends mostly on dialogues among States. The ongoing dialogue and exchange of information has been and certainly will be one of the keys to the success for fostering safe and sustainable space operations in orbits and the mitigation of space debris. UNCOPUOS was instrumental in the development of its Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines, which since 2007 provide guidance to space operators in this respect. And Member states have worked for nearly a decade to develop and reach consensus on guidelines for the long-term sustainability of outer space activities.

Germany strongly promotes the continuation of this dialogue and the consideration of LTS in COPUOS. Besides the Subcommittee’s agenda item on the LTS, which allows Member states to share their experiences with the implementation, Germany considers it appropriate to establish a Working Group and develop clear procedures for

-  reviewing and updating the guidelines; and

-  introducing and considering new candidate guidelines.

Hopefully the Committee will be able to reach consensus on how to continue work on the topic of LTS during 2019.

Germany will continue to engage in this process, which is, in our view, essential to enhancing space safety and the long-term sustainability of space activities.

Madam Chair, Distinguished delegates,

We thank you for your kind attention.

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