Norway Joins European Space Race With Sub-Arctic Satellite Base
According to space researcher Knut Robert Fossum, large traditional satellites will face increasingly stiffer competition from simpler models, as the technology is getting smaller. The demand, in turn, generates a need for more launch sites, which is where Norway intends to step in.
As the race for the first European nation to launch satellites from its own territory intensifies, Norway is upping the stakes with the Andøya Space Centre located in Nordland County in the northern part of the country.
"We are now giving the go-ahead for the establishment of the launch base on Andøya. [The] Andøya Spaceport will receive a total of NOK 365 million [$42 million]", Prime Minister Erna Solberg said
, as quoted by national broadcaster NRK
In the words of Christian Hauglie-Hanssen, the CEO of the Norwegian Space Centre, there are many players working to develop rockets, but few places where they can be launched.
"With Andøya, we are poised to become the first European country to launch from its own territory. Another important perspective is that smaller countries increasingly become space nations. Norway now has five satellites that satisfy national needs, but now we have the opportunity to enter into dialogue with other countries", Hauglie-Hanssen told NRK. The third aspect he singled out is the importance for Europe to have its own launching capacity.
The Andøya Space Centre is a former rocket range that has been used since the 1960s for launching weather balloons and research spacecraft and is being primed as a launch service for small satellites. It currently has some 80 staff.
The Norwegian space industry in general currently consists of around 40 large and small companies with a total turnover of around NOK 8 billion ($940 million) annually. Further development of Andøya is expected to elevate Norway's position as a provider of services.
"It is predicted that traditionally expensive large satellites will face competition from smaller and cheaper ones. This is due to the technology getting smaller. There is a lot to be gained from this being simplified with smaller satellites, especially for those who are going into polar orbits. If the predictions come true, there will be a need for new bases to launch small satellites", Knut Robert Fossum, head of research at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Space (CIRiS), told NRK.
According to Roger Birkeland of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Andøya's infrastructure may allow it to become competitive and very important internationally. Hauglie-Hanssen emphasised that despite being a small nation, Norway's trump card is its credibility and coordination between the authorities, industries, and customer segment. Andøya's position in a low-traffic area is additionally seen as an edge over competitors such as Portugal.
8 October 2021, 05:43 GMT
The first satellite launch from Andøya is expected to take place during the third quarter of 2022, the same year Scotland and Sweden aim to send their satellites into orbit. Sweden, in particular, voiced plans to launch a satellite in the summer of 2022 from Esrange, a vastly upgraded rocket range from the 1960s.