U.S. National Statement to the 62nd Session of COPUOS

Senior Advisor Jon Harrison speaks to COPUOS delegates on a panel discussing "The Legacy of the Apollo 11 Mission: The Future of Space Exploration" alongside fellow U.S. panelists, June 12, 2019.

Statement by the United States on Agenda Item 4: General Exchange of Views, 62nd Session of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space

As prepared for delivery by Jon Harrison, Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of State

Vienna, June 13, 2019


Since we last met, the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) and its subcommittees made a substantial contribution to promoting international space cooperation.  In this regard, the United States wishes to welcome Mr. Andre Rypl from Brazil as the Chair of this COPUOS session.  We are confident that under his leadership we will have a very fruitful and successful session.  I also would like to express our deep appreciation to the staff of the Office for Outer Space Affairs for their superb work over the past year supporting the Committee and its Scientific and Technical and Legal subcommittees.

I would like to take this opportunity to highlight a few notable developments in United States national space policy.  The Trump Administration is moving ahead with implementation of the President’s National Strategy for Space.  This Strategy drives a whole-of-government approach to United States leadership in space and highlights that this Strategy will be implemented “in close partnership with the private sector and our allies.”  This will be particularly essential for efforts to ensure effective space operations through improved situational awareness and responsible behavior in space.

In discussing our efforts to enhance sustainability of space activities, the U.S. delegation can also cite ongoing work in implementing the President’s Space Policy Directive-3 on “National Space Traffic Management Policy.”  It’s particularly worth noting that SPD-3 states that “the United States should encourage the adoption of new norms of behavior and best practices for space operations by the international community through bilateral and multilateral discussions with other spacefaring nations, and through U.S. participation in various organizations” including COPUOS and other fora.  As part of this effort, the U.S. is also working to update the U.S. Government orbital debris mitigation standard practices, which when completed, will be publicly available.

Therefore, the U.S. believes that COPUOS should continue to remain a key multilateral forum for fostering conducive environments which strengthen the safety, stability, and sustainability of our space activities.

In this regard, we welcome the Committee’s endorsement at its 61st session of the recommendations and decisions of the 55th session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee regarding the Working Group on the Long-term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities. The United States believes it is now time for all nations to take a focused look at implementation of the 21 Guidelines for Long-Term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities and the Preamble, which were agreed on the basis of consensus after eight years of extensive work by the Working Group and four expert groups.

Mr. Chairman, the United States believes that the compendium of the preamble and 21 guidelines can promote increased communication, coordination, and capacity-building. It can also enhance practical international cooperation, and advance cooperative frameworks that promote responsible uses and exploration of outer space. This is consistent with the findings and recommendations contained in the 2013 consensus report of the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts on Transparency and Confidence-building Measures in Outer Space Activities (A/68/189).

As technology advances and resulting capabilities for the peaceful use of space progress, our delegations believes that the adoption and implementation of the 21 guidelines will result in new “best practices” and raise new issues regarding spaceflight safety and safe space operations.

Therefore, the United States is pleased to co-sponsor with Canada, France and Japan a proposal for a new Working Group on the Implementation and related aspects of the long-term sustainability of outer space activities (LTS Guideline Implementation Working Group) be established under the item on the long-term sustainability of outer space activities on the agenda of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee.  This proposal, contained in Conference Room Paper 7, would serve as a practical and comprehensive mechanism for the Committee to continue its important work in the area of safety and sustainability of outer space activities.  We invite other delegations to also co-sponsor this proposal.  We also look forward to working constructively with all delegations to advance consensus on this important topic.

To complement COPUOS’ work to promote best practices for outer space activities and to ensure a transparent and predictable framework for industry to operate under, the United States Department of State and Commerce are proud to be hosting a Space Enterprise Summit to be held at the Department of State in Washington, D.C. later this month on June 26 and 27 to engage senior representatives of government, industry, and space organizations on the emerging opportunities that will transform commercial space activities.  Hosted in the State Department, the event is expected to bring together 350-400 leaders from industry and government across all sectors of the space community to discuss the latest space industry policy developments, as well as to explore opportunities to partner and collaborate.  The event will be key in implementing the Trump Administration’s Space Policy Directives on Streamlining Regulations on Commercial Use of Space and Space Traffic Management.  The Space Enterprise Summit will include roundtable and panel sessions discussing such issues as: international cooperation for responsible behavior in space, improving analysis and narratives for the value of space, and role of international institutions and space traffic management. The Deputy Secretary of State Sullivan, Department of Commerce Secretary Ross and NASA Administrator Bridenstine will address the event, and senior leadership from industry, the U.S. government and major international partners will participate.

Mr. Chairman, as I noted in yesterday’s event, COPUOS agreed in 2015 that 2018 would be a fitting time to take stock of the contributions of the three United Nations Conferences on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE) to elevate the importance of space within the UN system and raise awareness of the benefits of space for all humankind.  Specifically, the Committee agreed that, since its establishment as a permanent body in 1959, COPUOS has contributed extensively to fostering international cooperation in space activities and that the fiftieth anniversary of the first UNISPACE conference would be an opportunity to consider the current status and chart the future role of the Committee at a time when actors, both governmental and non-governmental, are increasingly involved in outer space activities.

To this end, the U.S. was pleased with the success of the UNISPACE+50 commemoration that took place in conjunction with the 61st Session of COPUOS in June of this year.  The U.S. was particularly pleased that UNISPACE+50 initiated a process for the Committee to develop a “Space2030” agenda over the next two years, setting the course of the Committee’s work through 2030.  The U.S. looks forward to continuing our participation in this effort to develop a visionary document that lays the foundation for the future work of the Committee and its subcommittees, taking into account new directions that member states are taking to move beyond low-Earth orbit specifically to the Moon, Mars and other celestial bodies as well as incorporating new and innovative commercial ventures.

COPUOS and its subcommittees continue to achieve significant progress in promoting international space cooperation.  For nearly six decades, this Committee has focused on building consensus to advance the peaceful exploration and use of outer space for the benefit of all humanity.  As the only standing body of the UN concerned exclusively with the peaceful uses of outer space, COPUOS has been extremely successful in fostering international cooperation towards this end.  Whereas other UN organs, including the First Committee and Disarmament Commission, hold competence specifically to consider disarmament and international security matters relating to outer space, COPUOS offers us a unique forum focused on promoting the cooperative achievement of benefits from space exploration.

Thank you for your attention.