United Arab Emirates and China sign a Space Cooperation Agreement

On 28 December 2015, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the People's Republic of China signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on space cooperation. The agreement aims to provide a cooperative framework for data exchange, joint studies, and peaceful exploration of outer space.

The text of the MoU is not yet publicly available. However, a Press Release by the UAE Space Agency specifies that under the agreement the UAE Space Agency and the China National Space Administration will cooperate in exchanging information, studies and scientific data in the field of space exploration and peaceful exploitation. The agreement also includes cooperation on the launch and control of ground satellite systems as well as in the research and development of satellites for scientific, remote sensing, and communications purposes.

According to the Press Release, the MoU also stipulates that the Parties agree to form a Joint Committee for cooperation in the field of space science. The Committee will meet biennially, or as required, and will have the authority to form temporary working groups or steering groups for certain programmes. In addition, the MoU grants the relevant institutions working on space matters in both countries to sign further cooperation agreements.  

Space cooperation agreements have become increasingly prevalent in recent years, reflecting increased international cooperation in peaceful space exploration and development programmes. This in line with the principles set out in the widely ratified Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (Outer Space Treaty; EIF on 10 October 1967), which aims to promote 'broad international co-operation in the scientific as well as the legal aspects of the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes' (preamble).

The Outer Space Treaty affirms that there shall be freedom of scientific space investigation and provides that 'States shall facilitate and encourage international co-operation in such investigation' (Article I). Moreover, in the exploration and use of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, 'States Parties to the Treaty shall be guided by the principle of co-operation and mutual assistance' (Article IX). While the Treaty sets out further principles, rules and standards, the specifics of the cooperation between the Parties remain a matter of ongoing development, as this latest cooperation agreement again exemplifies.