Military satellite on track after budget snafu

The Luxeosys satellite will deliver 100 high-resolution images of the Earth’s surface per day Photo: Shutterstock

The Luxeosys satellite will deliver 100 high-resolution images of the Earth’s surface per day Photo: Shutterstock

A project to launch a military observation satellite is advancing, defence minister François Bausch said on Monday, after parliament last year agreed to roughly double the budget from €170m to €309m.

Lawmakers in 2018 first signed off on a €170m budget for the Luxeosys satellite, a project launched by former defence minister Etienne Schneider (LSAP). But a review by Bausch (Déi Gréng) found this amount to be vastly insufficient to buy the satellite, launch it and operate it for a period of ten years.

“The development and finalisation of new contracts for the government satellite observation system are progressing and on schedule,” the defence ministry said in a statement after Bausch met with members of parliament on 11 October to update them on progress made.

Nato, the UN and other allies will benefit from the satellite, which will transfer 100 high resolution images of the Earth’s surface per day, for example, to monitor natural disasters or to provide intelligence on conflict zones.

"I have noticed during discussions with my counterparts that the Luxeosys project is generating great interest from our partner countries and organisations and that there is a real demand and a real need for satellite imagery,” Bausch said.

"Luxeosys will not only allow Luxembourg to respect its international commitments in the field of defense, but above all to strengthen its space fabric and its credibility as well as its reputation in the space field and to demonstrate that we are a solidary and reliable partner,” he said.

All Nato member countries in 2014 pledged to spend 2% of GDP on defence, a target Luxembourg is far from reaching. It spent around 0.6% of GDP on its small army last year with plans to increase this amount to 0.72% by 2024.

As part of its spending drive, Luxembourg is co-funding a €200m refurbishment of Nato’s Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) in Capellen as well as a cyber range hosted by the organisation’s data centres.

Luxembourg has also invested in a military observation satellite and an A400M transport aircraft. It has plans to spend €367m on new military vehicles, boost army recruitment and is co-funding a multinational support plane programme. It is also mulling setting up a military hospital.

The Luxeosys budget is meanwhile undergoing an independent audit by a parliament watchdog, the Luxembourg Court of Auditors. Results are yet to be published.

Bausch on Monday revealed that the project is currently running around €30m under the upgraded budget based on contract negotiations so far, leaving a comfortable margin as contracts are finalised.