Strategy aims to boost Luxembourg’s role as ally in space

The ministry  of defence intends to extend its cyber defence strategy to protect space assets from electromagnetic interference Copyright (c) 2016 Andrey Armyagov/Shutterstock.

The ministry  of defence intends to extend its cyber defence strategy to protect space assets from electromagnetic interference Copyright (c) 2016 Andrey Armyagov/Shutterstock.

Defence minister François Bausch on Monday unveiled a four point plan aiming to consolidate and advance the grand duchy as a major player in the space and cyber sector for military and civilian use.

Russia threatening the use of nuclear weapons in its war with Ukraine is a “new norm”, Bausch said, adding that “the language that Mr Putin is using is very aggressive.” But we must not “be impressed by this”, and let the threat stop governments from “supporting an independent country”.  Luxembourg and European residents can be assured of “this protective umbrella of Nato,” Bausch said in an attempt to reassure, adding that the response to any attack would be disastrous for Putin.

In this complex and evolving security environment space has become the new frontier for defence. Since 2019, Nato has adopted its own space strategy and in January 2022 the EU minsters for defence also agreed to develop a European space strategy.

Now Luxembourg, as a leading country in the field has announced its commitment to become a reliable partner for its allies and international organisations such as the UN, Nato and the EU. “We have a lot of experience coming from the civil sector with SES and the space centre that we developed and now we can use this knowledge to build up a space defence strategy and be a very important partner for even big countries like the United States,” Bausch said about Luxembourg’s international role for space.

The four point strategy will encompass and support international efforts in:

·      The consolidation, protection, and development of space systems

·      Environmentalism, access and the creation of norms and standards

·      National PPP and international cooperation

·      Attracting a skilled workforce

Consolidation of space assets

In terms of ambitions to consolidate its growing influence in the space field, the government has announced fresh investments in satellite communication and access to its secure communication satellites, such as GovSat-1.

Last year, lawmakers confirmed the budget for a new observational satellite named Luxeosys, the use and access to which will be both military and civilian. “The satellite is 100% owned by the state of Luxembourg and its main purpose is really to provide images to everybody who asks for it, especially public organisations like the UN and Nato, but also NGOs and different states,” explained Bausch, who went on to reinforce the point that the satellite is not for commercial but public civilian use.

The ministry of defence will also through the use of “ground and space-based assets” be able to detect objects as small as 10cm in size, be it debris, asteroids or a hostile action. This initiative labeled “situational awareness” will “protect the systems of our allies and partners,” said Bausch.

Environmentalism and access

And with the ever-increasing amount of space debris, the defence minister spoke about the possibility of deploying a satellite with the capability to launch a net. “The technology exists already,” said Bausch. The inspiration came from the same methods that are used to clean the oceans from plastic.

To ensure continued access to space, the ministry intends to extend its cyber defence strategy to protect space assets from electromagnetic interference and “meddling”, normally manifesting itself in the form of “jamming or spoofing” of satellites.

Luxembourg also wishes to build up a real deterrent capacity through alliances and partnerships and wishes to see an extension of article 5 of the Nato collective defence treaty. Bausch in June last year signed a €6.7m deal with Nato to fund a space situational awareness project.

Public and private partnerships

Luxembourg will not act alone in its space defence ambitions. Its strategy has been written in accordance with EU and Nato documents as reference. And it wishes over the next 10 years to provide reliable contributions to these international organisations in the form of secure satellite communications.

Space plays an important economic role for the grand duchy. Since the launch of the Spaceresources.lu initiative in 2016, the country has attracted around 75 space companies, joining major player SES.  The strategy emphasises Luxembourg’s commitment to support small and medium-sized businesses to develop and contribute to the needs of defence.

Luxembourg-based companies such as Kleos, Spire and OQ Technology all have government clients in their sights, while the US-based subsidiary of SES--SES Government Solutions--caters exclusively to the US government. And SES works with the Luxembourg state in a joint venture on the GovSat-1 satellite.

A new career pathway in space

The ministry in wishing to develop and attract the best space talent has also announced its intent to create a space profession pathway with the ministry of defence.

While a big part of the research and development is being done with the University of Luxembourg, said Bausch, “Franz Fayot in the civil sector is trying to build up something very strong at the university. For space there is ambitions to integrate the research done at the university with the defence sector.”