The Swedish government has announced a decision to establish a means of launching small satellites from northern Sweden.
The Swedish Minister of Higher Education, Research and Space, Matilda Ernkrans, recently visited the space base Esrange in northernmost Sweden and has since announced that the government is investing SEK 90 million ($10.1 million) in infrastructure that will enable Sweden to start launching satellites into orbit in the near future.
"It feels good. I believe it's important, we are a committed space nation. Just last year, we bolstered the space budget, we are in the process of changing space legislation that needs to be upgraded, and now we can give the message to continue developing our space base Esrange with this new capability", Matilda Ernkrans said, as quoted by Swedish Radio.
Matilda Ernkrans announcement was met with a round of applause at the space base outside the mining town of Kiruna, among others, by Stefan Gardefjord, CEO of the state-owned Swedish Space Corporation, SSC, which operates Esrange.
"This really puts Sweden on the map in the context of space, properly. Like I said, only a handful of countries, a dozen countries, have this ability", Gardefjord told Swedish Radio.
The upgrade, which includes a new testbed, will allow Esrange to move from sounding rockets and stratospheric balloons to small satellites of up to 150 kilos.
The CEO of the Swedish Space Corporation ventured that satellites are expected to play an increasingly important role in the coming decades, as the use of satellite data increases, for instance, for climate monitoring, communication, and self-driving cars. All of the prerequisites and great opportunities are in place for space launches to become profitable, he stressed.
In the words of Stefan Gardefjord, Esrange may become "Europe's hot spot for space activities".
Furthermore, satellite capability may also have a military dimension. According to the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI), superpowers may closely monitor the activities at Esrange and in some cases even “'suspicious eyes".
Established in 1964, the Esrange Space Centre is a rocket range and research centre located about 40 kilometres east of the town of Kiruna, Norrbotten County. It is currently used for scientific research with high-altitude balloons, investigation of the aurora borealis, rocket launches, and satellite tracking and bills itself as "one of the most active and versatile launch sites in the world". Many consider its location 200 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle in a vast wilderness ideal for launching satellites. Over the decades, hundreds of sounding rockets and stratospheric balloons have been launched from Esrange.