The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) is a part of the United Nations Secretariat, located at the United Nations Office in Vienna. In March 2014, the Secretary-General appointed Simonetta Di Pippo (Italy) as the new Director of the Office.
The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs was initially created as a small expert unit within the United Nations Secretariat in New York to assist the ad hoc Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space established by the General Assembly in its resolution 1348 (XIII) of 13 December 1958. It became a unit within the Department of Political and Security Council Affairs in 1962, when the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space met for the first time, and was transformed into the Outer Space Affairs Division of that Department in 1968. In 1992, the Division was transformed into the Office for Outer Space Affairs within the Department for Political Affairs and was relocated to the United Nations Office at Vienna in 1993.
The Office implements the decisions of the United Nations General Assembly and of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. The office has the dual objective of supporting the intergovernmental discussions in the Committee and its Scientific and Technical Subcommittee and Legal Subcommittee, and of assisting developing countries in using space technology for development.
The mandate was several times adjusted allowing the Office, among other tasks, the coordination of the inter-agency cooperation within the United Nations on the use of space technology - UN-Space (resolution 3234 (XXIX)), implementing the United Nations Programme on Space Applications (resolution 2601A (XXIV)) and the UN-SPIDER Programme for disaster risk management and emergency response (resolution 61/110).
In addition the Office is maintaining coordination and cooperation with space agencies and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations involved in space-related activities and on behalf of the United Nations Secretary-General, the Register of Objects Launched into Outer Space. The office has also been helping poor nations suffering from climate change related problems by helping them access satellite images for free.
The Office is composed of the Committee, Policy and Legal Affairs (CPLA) headed by Niklas Hedman and the Space Applications Section (SAS) headed by Luc St- Pierre. These are coordinated by the Office of the Director managed by Simonetta Di Pippo.
The Committee, Policy and Legal Affairs Section provides substantive secretariat services to the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, its Subcommittees and working groups and contributes to the implementation of the recommendations of UN global conferences. The section further convenes and services the Inter Agency Meeting on Outer Space Activities – UN-Space, which is the central inter-agency coordination mechanisms in the UN system on overarching space matters, and which meets annually to discuss current and future activities, emergent technologies of interest and other related matters, in particular in relation to the global development agenda. Furthermore, the section is concerned with the establishment of a legal and regulatory framework governing space activities, and the office is actively fostering capacity-building in the area of space law and policy. In order to keep track of all objects in earth orbit the office manages a searchable online register of objects launched into outer space, mandated under the Registration Convention.
The Space Applications Section works on building capacities in the practical application of space technology and space-derived information for development. The Programme concentrates its efforts on ensuring the equal access of all countries to new space-based technologies, especially developing nations. To facilitate the capacity building with focus on developing countries the office provides three initiatives.
The Programme also focuses efforts on the potential of space-based information for disaster management and emergency response. In 2006 the UN-SPIDER programme was established to "provide universal access to all countries and all relevant international and regional organizations to all types of space-based information and services relevant to disaster management to support the full disaster management cycle". The UN-SPIDER programme is achieving this by being a gateway to space information for disaster management support, serving as a bridge to connect the disaster management and space communities and being a facilitator of capacity-building and institutional strengthening, in particular for developing countries.
The International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (ICG), established in 2005 under the umbrella of the United Nations, promotes voluntary cooperation on matters of mutual interest related to civil satellite-based positioning, navigation, timing, and value-added services. To support the work of ICG, the Office was designated as the Executive Secretariat of ICG. In that capacity UNOOSA is organizing regional workshops, training courses and international meetings focusing on capacity-building in the use of GNSS-related technologies in various rapidly growing fields of science and industry.
Citizens of more than 50 countries have served as staff members, consultants, and interns. Staff members of the Office have a wide range of educational backgrounds, including space science (including interdisciplinary fields), physics, engineering, computer science, political science, international affairs and law (including public international law and space law).
Before Simonetta Di Pippo became director of the Office in 2014 she was Director of Human Spaceflight at the European Space Agency. Mr. Niklas Hedman serves as Chief of the Committee, Policy and Legal Affairs Section Mr Luc St-Pierre as Chief of the Space Applications Section.
At different times, a number of other distinguished people, including Adigun Ade Abiodun, Vladimír Kopal, Mazlan Binti Othman, Luboš Perek, Nandasiri Jasentuliyana, and Takao Doi served at various positions.
In 2009, Takao Doi became Chief of Space Applications.
In March 2014, Simonetta Di Pippo became the Director.
In September 2016, UNOOSA announced the first-ever United Nations space mission. It will be partnering with the Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), using its Dream Chaser spaceplane, to enable developing nations to send microgravity payloads into low-Earth orbit, with a target launch in 2021.