As of now, the EU lacks the ability to launch satellites from European soil, which Sweden seeks to rectify by updating a rocket range from the 1960s to meet today’s standards.
Sweden is developing its capacity to launch satellites into the orbit. The space base Esrange outside the city of Kiruna in the northernmost part of the country is planned to start operation in the summer of 2022.
Esrange was established in the 60’s as a launching range and research centre. Since 1966, almost 600 rockets and weather balloons have been launched from the base, mainly for research purposes. Its location some 200 kilometres above the Arctic circle and surrounded by a vast wilderness, which is seen as largely beneficial for many of these purposes.
As of now, the EU lacks the ability to launch satellites from European soil. Europe’s Spaceport is situated in the northeast of South America in French Guiana, an overseas department of France. Remarkably, though, the investment in promoting satellite capability in Europe doesn’t come from the EU, but through a loan agreement of SEK 120 million ($13.6 million) between the state-owned space company SSC and the Nordic Investment Bank.
The 12-year maturity loan will finance the investments needed to enable the use of reusable rockets.
“With this funding, we get so far that we can launch satellites into orbit”, Philip Påhlsson, project manager for New Esrange, told Swedish Radio. “We’ll get a basic ability in place with the current message. Then there is additional potential to develop”, Philip Påhlsson expanded.
The first investment was made by the government in 2018, when SEK 60 million ($6.8 million) was set aside for the test operations.
“During the first 50 years of space technology, Europe has been lagging a bit behind. Now both the EU and the European space organisation ESA (European Space Agency) are investing heavily, and Sweden can step in on the global space scene through our state-of-the-art space base Esrange,” SSC head of strategy Stefan Gustafsson said.
This will allow Sweden to become part of an exclusive club of about a dozen countries in the world that have their own satellite capabilities.
In addition to military purposes, satellite launches can be used to gather information about the earth, the atmosphere and the oceans and assist in monitoring the environment and the weather, as well as deforestation and forest fires.