11 October 2017

Toulouse, France


The 9th meeting of the Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (SMPAG) took place on 11 October 2017 at the CNES, Toulouse, France. The meeting was chaired by ESA, the current SMPAG chair (2014-2018).


1) Adoption of the agenda and introduction of participants.

Agenda was adopted. The following agencies and institutions were represented at the meeting (ASI, Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG), BELSPO, CNES, DLR, ESA, JAXA, KASI, NASA, ROSA, UKSA, UNOOSA). Observers for ESO and IAU participated at the meeting. Delegations from China and COSPAR also participated as observer delegations.


2) Status of SMPAG

The Chair of SMPAG gave an update on the status of SMPAG. In advance of the 9th meeting, SMPAG had 16 official members and 4 official observers. Before this meeting the SMPAG Chair received official applications by Austria for membership and by ESO for observer status. Three other States and one observer indicated their intention to join SMPAG in the future. The Chair also informed about the status of meetings of the SMPAG Ad Hoc Working Group on Legal Issues, which was established in 2016, and to date held 3 meetings to prepare its Terms of Reference and to identify work items and their leads.


3) Members and observers

SMPAG unanimously voted upon Austria becoming the 17th member of SMPAG.

SMPAG welcomed ESO as the new observer to SMPAG.

The SMPAG Chair also informed the Group of the indication by Canada, China and Czechia to apply for membership.  


4) Letters of support

The COSPAR representative announced the intention to apply as observer and is considering sending a letter of support to SMPAG. SMPAG welcomed the option to have letters of support by various entities.


5) UNOOSA role as secretariat and funding status

Pursuant to the General Assembly resolution 71/90, the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) serves as secretariat to SMPAG. This function is performed with no implications for the regular UN budget. For the period 2017-2020 ESA offered a contribution and a call for funds between UNOOSA and ESA has been concluded in this regard.



The UNOOSA representative informed SMPAG on the planned outcomes of UNISPACE+50 at the UNISPACE+50 high-level segment, to be convened on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the first United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE), on 20 to 21 June 2018 in Vienna. SMPAG and IAWN are entities resulting out of recommendations of the UNISPACE III conference, held in 1999. SMPAG discussed the possibility of including some recommendations on the way forward in planetary defence as part of UNISPACE+50, linking it to Space for Resiliency outcomes. Recommendations for increasing planetary defence efforts and awareness have been prepared (see Appendix). A UN brochure on the work of IAWN, SMPAG, UNOOSA and COPUOS in the area of NEOs and planetary defence is being prepared.


7)  Update on recent relevant missions and programmes:

Updates were provided on the following on-going or future missions and NEO-related activities: OSIRIS-REx mission, NEOWISE mission (NASA), Hayabusa II (JAXA), Small body research (CNES). NASA provided an update on the DART mission (Phase B), on NEOCam (extended Phase A) as well as on the cancellation of the ARM mission. ESA is currently assessing a new mission concept called Hera, which is based on AIM and is planned as the first ever investigation of the effects of a kinetic impactor. Information was also provided on the discovery and close approach of 2012 TC4. SMPAG also heard presentations by China, ESA, KASI and UKSA on their on-going NEO-related activities. SMPAG heard a presentation entitled “Remote sensing characterization of NEOs for mitigation: state of the art and limitations” by CNES.


8) SMPAG Ad Hoc Working Group on Legal Issues (SMPAG Legal WG)

SMPAG Legal WG Group Coordinator, Line Drube, presented the on-going work of the SMPAG Legal WG, which was established under the mandate of SMPAG at its 6th meeting in February 2016 and started its work in November that year. SMPAG approved the Terms of Reference agreed upon by the SMPAG Legal WG at its 3rd meeting on 10 October 2017.


9) Status of report on work plan items

Status reports were given on all on-going work plan items.

5.1 Criteria and thresholds for impact response actions (NASA)

5.2 Mitigation mission types and technologies to be considered (UKSA)

5.3 Mapping of threat scenarios to mission types (ESA)

5.4 Reference missions for different NEO threat scenarios (ASI)

5.5 A plan for action in case of a credible threat (NASA/IAA)

5.6 Communication guidelines in case of a credible threat (NASA)

5.7 Roadmap for future work on planetary defense (DLR)

5.9 Criteria for deflection targeting (ROSA)

5.11 Toolbox for a characterisation payload (CNES)


NASA presented the criteria and thresholds for impact response actions. A written summary report was provided. DLR provided the booklet “Roadmap of Relevant Research for Planetary Defense” under work plan item 5.7, jointly authored by DLR and NASA.

ASI presented the updated IAC paper entitled “Mission analysis for two potential asteroids threat scenarios: optimal impact strategies and technology evaluation” and invited SMPAG members to participate in the work item 5.4.

For item 5.8. Consequences, including failure, of NEO mitigation space missions, it was agreed that ESA will take the lead, supported by Austria and UK.  It is recognized that the work under this item is also highly relevant for the work of the SMPAG Legal WG. Item 5.10 on the Study of the nuclear option is still without a lead.


10) Next SMPAG meeting:

The 10th meeting of SMPAG will take place on the margins of the 55th session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee (29 January – 8 February 2018), during the first week of the session, on 31 January 2018.


11) Splinter meetings:

The following splinter meetings were held:

  • On items 5.2, 5.3, 5.4. on mitigation methods and reference missions;
  • On item 5.11 on toolbox for NEO characterization payloads;
  • On the UN brochure and the PDC 2017 Acta Astronautica papers.

12) Other matters

  • SMPAG agreed that draft SMPAG papers/documents as well as presentations could be published on the SMPAG webpage with the consent of the authors.
  • The SMPAG Chair informed the Group that the deadline for the PDC 2017 Acta Astronautica papers is 31 October 2017.
  • SMPAG Chairmanship: The present term of the ESA chairmanship ends mid-2018. Members are invited to express interest or propose candidates.  The new SMPAG Chair should preferably be nominated at the 10th SMPAG meeting in Vienna.


Recommendations for increasing planetary defence efforts and awareness

  • SMPAG agreed to propose recommending re-naming the agenda item “Near-Earth objects” of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) to “Near-Earth objects and planetary defence”,  to raise awareness among  COPUOS members on all the aspects of on-going work in planetary defence, from NEO discovery, monitoring and characterization to determine the most effective and appropriate methods for NEO deflection as well as understand the practical and legal implications of NEO deflection. A UN brochure on NEOs and planetary defence is planned.
  • To work with UNOOSA and its UN-SPIDER programme as part of their technical advisory missions on disaster preparedness and emergency response and as part of UNOOSA capacity-building activities. This is also related to one of IAWNs activities on informing the relevant parties, such as emergency response agencies.
  • Proceed to defining an approach for authorizing and coordinating a multi-nation cooperative effort on NEO threat mitigation (decision to act).


Created 11 Oct 2017, updated 30 Oct 2017, dvk