Sweden’s national space centre may have a future as Europe’s first satellite launch station.
More than a thousand research rockets and stratospheric balloons have been launched from the Esrange Space Centre outside Kiruna since it opened in 1966. It’s also a control centre for the Galileo Positioning System, the European Union’s version of GPS.
Because of its location 200 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, the centre can stay in contact with European satellites around the clock. But almost 50 years after it opened the centre needs some refurbishment and perhaps even a new mission, says Anders Jörle of the Swedish Space Corporation (SSC).
“We’re looking at the opportunities to modernize and upgrade Esrange. Then we need to gauge the demand for satellite launches, he told SR Radio Norrbotten – adding that Kiruna is probably the only location in Europe suitable for sending satellites into space.
Jörle is confident that if the demand is there the money will follow.
“The Space Corporation can raise funds, as can the National Space Board – and we work with many international companies and organizations that can contribute,” he said.
Visitors to Esrange are treated to an animated Virgin Galactic video promising shuttle launches in the future from the Northern Swedish space centre and hundreds of tickets have already been sold.
Those plans are taking longer than expected – largely due to set backs in developing the space vehicle.
So communications satellites may be blasting off into space from the Swedish Arctic long before space tourists – possibly even by the end of the decade says Anders Jörle at SSC.