Why would a small country like the Netherlands become active in space? The field was monopolized by large countries with large military establishments, especially in the early years of spaceflight. Nevertheless, the Netherlands established a space program in the late 1960s. In this paper I will analyze the backgrounds of Dutch space policy in international post-war politics, national industrial policy, and science. After the Second World War, European space activities were shaped by the interplay between transatlantic and European cooperation and competition, limited by American Cold War diplomacy. At the national level, the Dutch space program was shaped firstly by two powerful companies, Philips electronics and Fokker Aircraft. As I will demonstrate, these two firms sought to gain crucial management skills as well as technological ones. Meanwhile, the nation's astronomers were able to capitalize on an advantageous confluence of political, economic and scientific ambitions to forward their own agenda. They succeeded in obtaining two of the most expensive scientific instruments ever built in the Netherlands: the Astronomical Netherlands Satellite (ANS, launched 1974) and the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS, 1983). Both were joint Dutch-American missions, but the nature of the cooperation on each was very different, reflecting the changing relationship between America and Western Europe from the 1950s until the 1980s. © 2014 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.