Satellites, Space Exploration, and the Netherlands’ National Security
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.