Two days ago, you'll recall, I blogged about Mr. Elon Musk's Space X corporation's "proof of concept" launch to place one of his Tesla roadsters - playing David Bowie no less - in orbit around Mars. As I indicated yesterday, I'm not buying the narrative for a New York minute, and as I argued yesterday, the Chinese news agency Xinhua may not be buying that explanation either.
Which brings us to today's little venture in the the realm of high octane speculation and space matters.
Sometimes, when contemplating these types of stories, I cannot help but feel I'm living in some weird sort of real world version of Leonard Wibberly's classic lampoon novels, The Mouse that Roared and The Mouse on the Moon. For example, when one thinks of "spy satellites" or "military satellites," one normally thinks of countries like "USA, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, India, Japan." I'll bet that "the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg" probably doesn't appear on anyone's list of countries associated with military satellites. What has this to do with Leonard Wibberly's novels? Well, for those unaware of them, The Mouse that Roared is about a small and all-but-forgotten micro-state in Europe, the fictional Grand Duchy of Fenwick, whose sole source of income is a particularly fine pinot wine called Pinot Grand Fenwick. Alas, a cheap California knock-off called Pinot Grand Enwick begins to be marketed, threatening the national security of the five-mile-long Grand Duchy, which, taking matters into its own hands, declares war on the United States for the outrageous affront to its national survival. The elaborate and florid Declaration of War from the Grand Duchy, addressed to the President and People of the United States by Grand Duchess Gloriana the Thirteenth (and which, incidentally, begins with the word "Greetings") makes it to the Department of Agriculture, where faceless bureaucrats assume it's someone's idea of a joke or prank, and is promptly lost in a shuffle of paperwork. Meanwhile, the Grand Duchy's tiny army of ten chain-mail armored knights lands in New York City, and kidnaps a nuclear scientist along with his super-bomb capable of a continental-sized blast, and brings him and the bomb back to the Grand Duchy before the United States is even aware that it is at war and has been successfully invaded. The Grand Duchy threatens to detonate the bomb and wipe everyone out, unless the United States surrenders. Which it does. Similar adventures ensue when the Grand Duchy joins the United States and the Soviet Union in the space race to the moon.
Enter the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and Elon Musk, whose Space X corporation also recently launched a "military satellite" for the Grand Duchy, according to this article shared by Mr. H.B.:
(Seriously, folks, could things get any weirder?)
The article notes something intriguing:
SpaceX on Wednesday blasted off a four-ton secure military communications satellite called GovSat-1, a partnership between the government of Luxembourg and the satellite operator SES.
"There you saw a successful liftoff of the Falcon 9," a SpaceX commentator said as the rocket launched on a sunny day from Cape Canaveral at 4:25 pm (2125 GMT).
The satellite will enable "secure communication links between theaters of tactical operations, for maritime missions or over areas affected by humanitarian crises," said a SpaceX statement.
The SES company in turn is a Luxembourg-based company, and here's its own explanation of the satellite launch:
And here's what the company itself says about its satellite:
GovSat-1 was designed for dual use to support both defence and civil security applications, including mobile and fixed communications. It is a multi-mission satellite that offers X-band and Military Ka-band capacity. The spacecraft will provide up to six high-powered and fully steerable spot beams, as well as an advanced Global X-band beam.
The X-band frequency is reserved for governments and institutions, and is an ideal mean to establish secure and robust satellite communication links, for example between theaters of tactical operations, maritime missions or over areas affected by a humanitarian crisis.
The Military Ka-band will be used predominantly for mobility applications in support of Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions. The secure communication links it enables are characterised by smaller high-throughput VSAT terminals. The Mediterranean sea is one particular area covered by a high-power beam in military Ka-band. It is therefore ideally suited to enable communications for European Border Surveillance applications.
Equipped with anti-jamming features, encrypted telemetry and control, and frequencies reserved for governmental use, GovSat-1 will also provide enhanced resilience capabilities for more reliable connectivity. (Emphases added)
In other words, this is a "spy and communications satellite-for-hire", or at least, that's its ostensible purpose. So why Luxembourg? As I've blogged before on this website, Luxembourg is a major international banking hub, and has recently become a center for development of space commercialization and a center of thinking for the development of space law. And its influence in the European Union is hardly commensurate to its tiny size, as EU dictocrat and capo di capi, Jean-Claude Juncker, hails from the Grand Duchy.
To be noted is that the satellite is apparently intended "to enable communications for European Border Surveillance applications," which suggests firstly that a possible change in the EU's refugee policy might be in the offing, and secondly, suggests that a system of controls might be in the offing to track individuals.
So what does all this mean? My high octane speculation and intuition is that this is a first practical step on the build-out of redundancy into the financial clearing system, but with a unique twist: a surveillance capacity-for-hire comes with it, and this capacity could thus signal that non-territorial actors are being deliberately courted as the "target market" for the capability. Hence, the relationship with Musk's Space X is significant, for it presages more such launches of similar payloads in the future. Indeed, if certain of the satellite's capabilities are "reserved for governments and institions", one wonders exactly what those institutions are: banks, foundations, corporations come to mind, as also more salacious organizations.
In effect, Wibberly's fictitious Cold War scenario of the Mouse that Roared and The Mouse on the Moon is, in a way, becoming reality: Luxembourg means to be a player in the emerging space-based financial, communications, surveillance system.
And that means, more significantly, that Luxembourg will have to develop the means to defend those assets, and that, to my mind, is where those unnamed "institutions" and organizations come in. It will, in short, have to learn how to roar, and to acquire the means to do so.
See you on the flip side...