United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA)

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) was established in 1958 as the United Nations (UN) office responsible for promoting and facilitating international and peaceful cooperation in outer space. The purpose of UNOOSA in the period of its foundation was to advise the UN about the incipient activities of the use of outer space precisely at the beginning of the so-called Space Race, a period in which the Soviet Union and the United States fought for the pioneering spirit of space actions, requiring appropriate regulation[1]. 

The first document that emerged to govern the rules for the use of the cosmos was the Outer Space Treaty, which is the primary basis of international space law until today[1]. The Treaty came into force in 1967 and aimed to prevent the abusive use of celestial bodies and outer space by countries, such as the use of satellites or space missiles as weapons of mass destruction[2]. 

Therefore, the protagonism of diplomatic space activities was obtained, seeking a peaceful and joint operation of celestial bodies. After being consolidated through the Outer Space Treaty, UNOOSA has proven to be one of the UN bodies with increasing importance in recent years. The current scenario demonstrates the renewal of the interest in exploring outer space and the emergence of new actors aiming at the vastness of the cosmos[2].

TOPIC A: The Space Debris Problematic

The central theme is the General Review of the Outer Space Treaty, given that the document, which came into force in 1967, does not cover a good part of the circumstances existing in the 21st century, but still reflects a good part of the reality of the period in which it was signed[2]. Thus, the review of this treaty will focus on the treatment of space debris and the debate on using the cosmos by private agents[1].

The problem of space debris is not only a sensitive topic but also an urgent regulation. In 2021, NASA evaluated about 21,901 artificial objects in orbit, a form of pollution that affects not only the atmosphere but also points to risks in the use of space and the terrestrial environment. Therefore, the advancement of satellite technologies and space exploration policies indicates the urgency to address this space junk issue[3].

TOPIC B: The exploration of space by Private Agents

The space domain has challenged international stability whilst transitioning to a major percentage of commercial activity, both in terms of how it demonstrates that the old governance structure for space is being left behind — and how it highlights Russia’s declining rank among global space powers. On the other hand, the use of outer space by private agents is also of paramount importance for the future of the cosmos. Initiatives such as SpaceX, which aims to colonize Mars, and space tourism generate a need to reorganize forces in the international diplomatic sphere[4].

 It is worth noting that the scope of the Outer Space Treaty is given only to State Entities but should also start to discuss ways of covering Business Entities or individuals in its regulation. The Commercial Space Launch Act and the Land Remote-Sensing Commercialization Act are two prime examples of pro-private industry laws from this era of space commercialization whose overlapping struggle is to align a legacy regulatory system with an increasingly diverse space environment and various gaps in improvement[4].

Related Links:

  1. NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION. Space Debris and Human Spacecraft. [S. l.], May 26th, 2021. Retrieved from: Accessed on: dec. 30th, 2022.
  2. The Pros And Cons Of Privatizing Space Exploration. [S. l.], Apr 4th, 2017. Retrieved from: Accessed on: dec 31st, 2022.
  3. The Complicating role of the Private Sector in Space. Retrieved from: Accessed on: jan. 1st, 2023.
  4. SIMBERG, Rand. The Surprisingly Long History of Private Space Exploration. Retrieved from: Accessed on: jan. 3rd, 2023.
  5. UNITED NATIONS. United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. Vienna, 2010. Retrieved from: Accessed on: dec. 30th, 2022.

Related Media:

  1. Space Debris Is Now a Big Problem. Produced by: VICE News. YouTube, 2019 (12min). Retrieved from: Accessed on: dec. 29th, 2022.
  2. Space Junk (2012), 38 min, Directed by: Melissa R. Butts. Synopsis and movie retrieved from: Accessed on: jan. 2nd, 2023.
  1. Mars: Inside SpaceX (2018), 46 min, Directed by: Julia Reagan. Synopsis retrieved from: Accessed on: jan. 3rd, 2023.
  2. The Space Industry: The evolution of commercial human spaceflight. Produced by: Satsearch. Interviewee: Laura Crabtree. Interviewed by: Hywel Curtis. Retrieved from: Accessed on: jan. 3rd, 2023.


[1] UNITED NATIONS OFFICE FOR OUTER SPACE AFFAIRS (UNOOSA). Intro Outer Space Treaty. Retrieved from: Accessed on: dec. 29th, 2022.

[2] ARMS CONTROL ASSOCIATION (ACA). The Outer Space Treaty at a Glance. 2020. Retrieved from: Accessed on: dec. 12th, 2022.

[3] NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION (NASA). Orbital Debris Quarterly News. Vol. 25, 2021. Retrieved from: Accessed on: dec. 12th, 2022.

[4] IACOMINO, Clelia. The Evolving Role of Private Actors in Space Exploration. In: Potential Contributions of Private Actors to Space Exploration Programmes. Vienna, Austria: Springer Cham, 2019. p.(35-74). Retrieved from: Accessed on: jan. 3rd, 2023.

Academic Director:

Amanda Cristina Matias de Macêdo

Assistant Directors:

César Henrique Souza de Santana

Dante Pessoa Othon

João Pedro Buzzetti Ferreira

Letícia Alves Cardoso Dantas

Maria Eduarda de Melo Silva Nogueira

Raissa Villar Rodrigues


Mariana Lara Borges Pinto