There has been a lot of space news to come through from the Gizars this week, so today I'm kicking off the "Space-related" part of this week's blogs. T.M. spotted this one and it's one of those "quiet but important" stories, and it concerns our old friend, the "Mouse that Roared," the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, that tiny banking country in Europe that has very large space ambitions:
According to the article, the Grand Duchy and the USA have signed a memorandum of understanding concerning space development, but the article says little about what that memorandum of understanding contains, other than to note this:
The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on Friday to boost research, exploration, defence, and space commerce as well as tackle problems like regulatory reform and space debris.
"It covers the broadest possible range of space activities to be undertaken by the two countries as an important next wave of economic growth," US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said during a visit to Luxembourg to sign the deal.
Etienne Schneider, Luxembourg's deputy prime minister and economy minister, said the deal was "another important step forward" to enhance international space cooperation.
I strongly suspect, and probably many readers of this blog will as well, that this memorandum of understanding contains a few "secret protocols." But there is a hint at what is happening, and it's a strong one:
In 2015, the United States adopted the Space Act to allow for the exploration and commercial exploitation of space resources.
In 2017, Luxembourg introduced a law guaranteeing space companies ownership of resources acquired in space, the first country to do so in the 28-nation European Union.
What this portends is that bi-lateral agreements are being made to create a template by-passing existing international treaties, allowing private space corporations to claim ownership of space resources: if you can get there and mine the resources, they're yours. What Luxembourg's involvement in all this means is perhaps it is making a play, a big play, to become the space-version of The City of London, the Earth-based center of interplanetary financial clearing, and its recent moves to place satellites in orbit and then rent them out tends to confirm this view.
In support of this high octane speculation, the article notes something else:
Luxembourg has already signed space agreements with the United Arab Emirates, Japan and China as well as fellow EU countries Poland, the Czech Republic and Belgium.
In total, some 20 private firms involved in space work have established themselves in Luxembourg, officials said.
What this suggests is that Luxembourg is (1) negotiating bi-laterally with other countries to get them to acknowledge the rights of corporations established in Luxembourg to conduct space business, and (2) is perhaps also negotiating for physical infrastructure in those various countries to support any interplanetary clearing role it wishes to play.
Such a position in an interplanetary clearing system would give Luxembourg unprecedented power, and heralds the way that space will completely change the nature of geopolitical power. For example, "strategic depth" will come to mean something very different than it currently does, with depth meaning countries with a lot of land - China, Russia, Brazil, the USA - and come to me infrastructure redundancy in space, and a "depth" and dispersion of assets in space. With that kind of playing field, smaller countries like Luxembourg can play a much larger strategic role, one far beyond the limitations of their terrestrial physical size. The fact that the USA, China, and Japan have already concluded deals with the Grand Duchy also strongly suggests that there is tacit, though at this point, secret agreement among the great powers that Luxembourg is the "designated center" of such a system.
And that means, inevitably, we'll have to talk about the Moon, but we'll have to wait until tomorrow to do that...
See you on the flip side...