Prior to the invasion, Baron Harkonnen says:

There are no satellites over Arrakis. The Atreides will die in the dark.

In the novel, we're given to understand that the Fremen bribe the Spacing Guild with spice, so that the Guild will keep satellites prohibitively expensive.

However the noble houses all have their own spacefleets. It should be trivial for them to launch a few satellites of their own into orbit. What prevents them from doing so?

  • 6
    answered your own question. Stilgar says "we bribe the Guild with a monstrous payment in spice to keep our skies clear of satellites and such that none may spy what we do to the face of Arakis." - Earlier on Caladan, the Duke had told Paul to be very careful around the Guild during their travel. "Don't do anything to endanger our shipping privileges" and had said the Harkonnens would be equally as careful. So there you have it. One does not simply cross the Guild. If they say no satellites around Arrakis, then there will be no satellites or such or you risk no longer working with them
    – NKCampbell
    Apr 7, 2022 at 22:46
  • In other words, the Guild are doing more than just keeping prices out of reach. The bribe would presumably have to be large enough to compensate for their loss if they had to cut off Atreides/Harkonnen shipping privileges. Monstrous indeed.
    – Batperson
    Apr 7, 2022 at 23:15

2 Answers 2


The Spacing Guild forbade it.

Halleck said: “Wouldn’t it be cheaper to reopen negotiations with the Guild for permission to orbit a frigate as a weather satellite?

The Duke looked at Hawat. “Nothing new there, eh, Thufir?”

“We must pursue other avenues for now,” Hawat said. “The Guild agent wasn’t really negotiating with us. He was merely making it plain–one Mentat to another–that the price was out of our reach and would remain so no matter how long a reach we develop. Our task is to find out why before we approach him again.”


Frigates and ships presumably come under the general heading of "and such", that the Fremen pay the guild to keep out of their skies.

Jessica stopped in the act of turning away from him, looked back up into his face. “The Guild? What has the Guild to do with your spice?”

“It’s Liet’s command,” Stilgar said. “We know the reason, but the taste of it sours us. We bribe the Guild with a monstrous payment in spice to keep our skies clear of satellites and such that none may spy what we do to the face of Arrakis.”

As to why Leto Sr. doesn't just ignore this edict, note how paranoid he is about anything that might impede his ability to contract with the Guild.

“I’m going to watch our screens and try to see a Guildsman.”

“You won’t. Not even their agents ever see a Guildsman. The Guild’s as jealous of its privacy as it is of its monopoly. Don’t do anything to endanger our shipping privileges, Paul.”

  • 2
    Maybe another good point to drive this home is the fleet that's later assembled in orbit around Arrakis with troops from every house, including the Emperor and his sardaukar. When Paul is asked what they are waiting for he replies: For Guild permission. And that they threatened to strand anyone on Arrakis who lands without their permission. The Guild is in control of all interstellar spaceflight. Not even the Emperor can project his power without their permission and aid. Going against them is basically suicide for anyone, including the Great Houses. Apr 13, 2022 at 23:13
  • But if the Guild uses the spice supplied by the House that extracts it, shouldn't it (the guild) be dependent on and beholden to the house and not the other way around?
    – Nu'Daq
    Apr 16, 2022 at 0:47
  • @Nu'Daq - Without constant supplies from the Guild, the house that's on-planet on Arrakis would run out of food and materiel within weeks and probably get overrun by th Fremen within days
    – Valorum
    Apr 16, 2022 at 6:56

Unauthorised deployment of satellites would result in a Guild embargo, resulting in loss of trade and communications with the rest of the Imperium and resultant poverty, isolation and loss of influence - ultimately resulting in loss of the fief. "The Spice Must Flow"

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