Within two years, Sweden will be the fourteenth country with the capacity to launch satellites into orbit, announces Matilda Ernkrans, Minister for Higher Education. The government is funding SEK 90 million ($10 million) to upgrade the space center Esrange outside Kiruna.
We have talked about the development of Esrange with Anna Kinberg Batra, who sits on the board of Swedish Space Corporation, which runs Esrange.
- This is the third step in a comprehensive modernization of Esrange that has been going on since 2015. In total, the investment so far amounts to about $35 million, including Wednesday's announcement, and has been financed jointly between the government and SSC, says Anna Kinberg Batra.
Esrange will now be a testbed and among the tests to be carried out will be new types of rockets including Europe's variant of a reusable rocket. SpaceX was the first with the achievement to land and reuse orbital rockets.
Two of the future customers are already established at Esrange, ISAR Aerospace Technologies and Rocket Factory Augsburg, RFA.
The government and SSC are financing the expansion of the infrastructure at Esrange, but launches will be paid for by customers.
- There is great interest and several dialogues are underway, says Kinberg Batra.
A space race between Norway and Sweden
RFA has also signed an agreement with the Norwegian space base, Andöya, which also aims to be able to launch satellites in 2022, the same year that the expansion of Esrange is to be completed.
It is set up for a small space race between Norway and Sweden.
- The market is big enough for both of us, says Anna Kinberg Batra.
- But of course we want Esrange to take a leading role.
What type of rockets will Esrange be able to handle?
- We are primarily aiming for the micro launcher segment. Small satellites with a payload of about 150 kilos and more."
Esrange will become Europe's leading space base
What is the vision for Esrange in about ten years?
- To be Europe's leading and the world's most versatile space base! We will cover the whole spectrum, from testing and development to launch, data retrieval and analysis and processing of data. For example services in the analysis of Earth observation data and sustainability, where we can become the UN's center for climate monitoring 'Global Watch' and partner in digital business development," says Anna Kinberg Batra.
Esrange's rockets may need to fly over Norway, which the Norwegians have been negative about, but at SSC they emphasize the opportunities for cooperation with Andöya and follow international regulations during the launches.
- It is nice that we together lead the development and can give Europe and the rest of the world important launch capacity, says Anni Bölenius at SSC.
There are many indications that the satellite market will grow dramatically, so there will probably be a growing business to share and many collaboration opportunities.
But of course, it is also a competition between Norway and Sweden who will launch first and who takes the market's biggest share.
That's not negative. The space race between the Soviet Union and the United States gave us giant leaps into space. The competition between Norway and Sweden will be considerably more friendly, but it will mean that both parties keep a high pace. That's good; then the future will come sooner.
FACTS ABOUT ESRANGE
Esrange Space Center (short form Esrange) is a rocket range and research centre located about 40 kilometers east of the town of Kiruna in northern Sweden.
Esrange was built in 1964 by ESRO, the European Space Research Organisation, which later became European Space Agency by merging with ELDO, the European Launcher Development Organisation. The first rocket launch from Esrange occurred on 19 November 1966. In 1972, ownership was transferred to the newly started Swedish Space Corporation.