43. U.S. delegation statement to COPUOS (December 10, 2004)
AGENDA ITEM 12
PRACTICE OF STATES AND INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS IN REGISTERING SPACE OBJECTS
STATEMENT BY THE DELEGATION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Thank you Mr. Chairman. My delegation is pleased to have the opportunity to address the Subcommittee on the question of the practice of States and International Organizations in registering space objects under the Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space. Under this agenda item during the present session, Members States and international organizations will present reports on their practice in registering space objects and submitting the required information to the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs for inclusion on the Register.
Pursuant to Article III of the UN Convention on the Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space, the United Nations established a Register to record information on space objects launched into earth orbit or beyond as provided by States. At the time, three reasons were advanced to justify the establishment of a centralized Registry: traffic management, safety, and identification of space objects. Over the years, the Register has served a useful function in regard to each of these concerns.
Since the establishment of the Register, activities in space have dramatically increased and changed in nature to include increasing commercial activities. While the Registration Convention remains both useful and relevant, it has become increasingly evident that State and international organization practice in recording space objects on the UN Registry is widely divergent.
Last year the United States and other Members of this Subcommittee proposed that this Subcommittee add to its agenda a new item on the practice of States and international organizations in registering space objects. The United States and other Members stated their view that LSC could play a useful role in promoting adherence to the Registration Convention with respect to registration of space objects. We and others proposed, and the Subcommittee adopted, a multi-year work plan under which the LSC would examine State and international organization practice in recording space objects on the Registry established under the Registration Convention with the view to identifying common elements. We are now in the first year of this work plan and our agenda calls for Member States and international organizations to report on their practice in registering space objects and submitting the required information to the Office for Outer Space Affairs for inclusion in the Register.
In respect to the United States, over the years we have taken several steps towards implementation of the Registration Convention. First, in accordance with Article II of the Convention the United States established a national registry and notified the UN Secretary-General in a note verbale dated February 9, 1977. That registry is located and maintained by the Office of Space and Advanced Technology in the U.S. Department of State. The registry is updated quarterly on the basis of information provided by the U.S. Strategic Command which maintains a catalogue of all space objects. The information on the U.S. registry is in turn provided to the UN for inclusion in the Register. We include on the U.S. registry all U.S. government and private functional objects and certain non-functional objects, as well as launches of the Space Shuttle. The registry notes when objects are no longer in orbit.
During the past several years, the United States has been engaged in a process of upgrading the U.S. national registry of space objects so it is accessible via the Internet and can be updated electronically, to enhance the utility of our national registry. Today, one is able to access the entire US registry by going to the website www.usspaceobjectsregistry.state.gov.
As part of the updating process, we also undertook to clarify the domestic criteria for including objects on the U.S. Registry. This clarification was intended to ensure that U.S. owners/operators of space objects and non-U.S. entities have a clear understanding as to the circumstances under which space objects are and are not registered by the United States. Our registry now generally includes all space objects that are owned or operated by U.S. private or governmental entities and launched from inside or outside U.S. territory. In general, the United States will not include on its registry non-U.S. payloads that are launched from U.S. territory or facilities. It is our view that such non-U.S. payloads should be included on the registry of the State of the payload’s owner/operator because that State is best positioned to exercise continuing supervision. In addition, we will continue our practice of including certain non-functional objects on the U.S. registry.
Regarding our practice in registering space objects that are owned or operated by U.S. private entities and launched from U.S. territory, we note, of course, that such registration does not affect the rights or obligations of the United States and the corresponding government under the Convention on International Liability for Damage caused by space objects or under the Outer Space Treaty. The Report of the recent U.N. Workshop on Space Law in Daejeon, Republic of Korea, confirmed this conclusion. Paragraph 43 of the Report states: 'The Workshop noted that a State's liability did not depend on whether or not that State registered a space object in accordance with the provisions of the [Registration] Convention.'
When the Department of State is notified by a U.S. non-governmental entity that it will be launching a space object from non-U.S. territory, the United States notifies, through diplomatic channels, the corresponding government that
- The United States has been advised that such a launch will take place;
- As this space object is owned or controlled by a U.S. private entity and launched from outside the territory of the United States, the U.S. Department of State will include the space object on the U.S. registry once it has been launched into Earth orbit;
- Registration of the space object shall not affect the rights or obligations of the United States and the corresponding government under the Convention on International Liability for Damage caused by space objects or under the Outer Space Treaty.
In cases where two or more governments jointly launch one or more space objects, specific provisions on registration are provided for in the cooperation agreement.
Mr. Chairman and fellow delegates, it is my hope that this information regarding U.S. practice in registering space objects will prove useful in furthering our work and promoting adherence to the Registration Convention. I look forward to hearing other views on this topic. Thank you for your attention.