New strategic alert: Space

May 18th 2020 - 08:30
Strategic Alert: Space

Satellites, Space Exploration, and the Netherlands’ National Security

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The economic relevance of space is substantive and growing. Currently, space’s value is primarily derived from satellites orbiting Earth. A 2019 study found that 87.5% of the $277bn in revenues generated in space could be attributed to commercial satellite services. These services are of critical importance to the functioning of the (inter)national economy. Positioning, timing, and navigation (PNT), communications, and Earth observation services form the backbone of many essential processes, such as fleet management or bank transactions. They are also key to the Netherlands’ military capabilities. Several strategic processes, from the execution of beyond line of sight (BLOS) operations to nuclear deterrence, are dependent on satellites. In the long term, space is also likely to play a role in the global energy transition. For example, the rare earth elements (REEs) contained in celestial bodies are in increasingly limited supply on Earth and are required for many renewable technologies.

As interstate competition heats up, an increasing number of states – more than 80 in 2018, compared to 50 in 2008 – have launched satellites into orbit. This, along with reductions in the cost of launching payloads, introduces both threats and opportunities from the Dutch perspective. Well-managed, commercially proactive, and internationally regulated initiatives to unlock and safeguard the space domain’s huge potential could contribute to European strategic autonomy, to the energy transition, and to a continued economic growth. Badly managed initiatives could see an intensification of interstate competition and the deterioration of public services.

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DISCLAIMER: The research for and production of this report has been conducted within the PROGRESS research framework agreement. Responsibility for the contents and for the opinions expressed, rests solely with the authors and does not constitute, nor should be construed as, an endorsement by the Netherlands Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence.

Hugo van Manen holds a Master’s degree (MSc) in International Public Management and Policy from the Erasmus University in Rotterdam and a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies from Leiden University. Prior to joining HCSS, Hugo worked as a consultant at Ecorys, where he was involved in several EU-commissioned projects within the field of civil protection, including the International Forum to Advance First Responder Innovation, DRIVER+, and DG ECHO’s peer review program.
Frank Bekkers is Director of the Security Program. He studied Applied Mathematics at the University of Amsterdam and spent most of his career at the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), specializing in the area of Defence, Safety & Security. At TNO, he held a range of positions, including program manager, senior research scientist, group manager and account director. From 1996-1997, he worked as program manager for Call Media and Intelligent Networks for the telecom company KPN. His current position at HCSS combines shaping HCSS’s portfolio concerning defense and security-related projects with hands-on participation in a number of key projects.
Dr. Tim Sweijs is the Director of Research at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies. He is the initiator, creator and author of numerous studies, methodologies, and tools for horizon scanning, early warning, conflict analysis, national security risk assessment, and strategy and capability development. Tim has lectured at universities and military academies around the world. His main research interest concerns the changing character of contemporary conflict. Tim is a Senior Research Fellow at the Netherlands Defence Academy and an Affiliate at the Center for International Strategy, Technology and Policy in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Patrick Bolder is an officer in the Royal Netherlands Air Force. Since January 2019 he is seconded to The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies. His expertise lies in all Defence matters, with a focus on Military Space, Unmanned systems, European Defence issues and Nuclear Policy.