On Friday 13th 2023, SSC inaugurated mainland EU’s first orbital launch site: Spaceport Esrange. Before the eyes of the whole world, the ribbon was cut by the Swedish Head of State, King Carl XVI Gustaf, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the Swedish Prime Minister, Ulf Kristersson. Now begins a new era for Esrange Space Center and Europe with an expected first satellite launch in early 2024.
“This spaceport offers an independent European gateway to space. It is exactly the infrastructure we need, not only to continue to innovate but also to further explore the final frontier. The important work you have been doing here for many years is a shining example of the enormous potential of space-based research to indeed improve our daily life,” said Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission.
“Only a handful of countries, about 10 countries in the world, have capability to launch satellites into orbit. In this context, Sweden now joins this group of countries and at enters the negotiating table for important questions about how we live our everyday lives here on Earth,“ said Stefan Gardefjord, CEO of SSC, in an interview with Swedish morning TV show Nyhetsmorgon.
Did you miss the live broadcast of the inauguration? Here is another chance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6R2uvTk764
Apart from the speeches on stage, the visiting delegations got the opportunity to experience an exhibition built up inside the launch vehicle integration building of the new orbital launch facility. The exhibition focused on the priority areas of the EU presidency and how they naturally connect to the space domain:
With the new orbital launch capability, the ecosystem of state-of-the-art space services of Esrange is completed. By this, Esrange forms a unique hub in an innovative and expanding high tech European space eco-system with global reach. Already strong collaboration between academia, institutions and industry will be further strengthened, utilizing synergies between many different societal and technological sectors. For Europe, this means an independent capability to utilize Space for further sustainable competitiveness and productiveness far beyond the space domain.
Today, more data is being produced by satellites than ever before. Modern earth observation and remote sensing is an important key to reach the UN sustainability goals, providing knowledge, insights, and innovation but also new opportunities for crisis management and proactive measures. The list of possible applications is almost endless: monitoring climate change, ecology, air and sea pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation and forest fires, agriculture, and community planning. Spaceport Esrange will contribute to this purpose while being at the sustainable forefront itself – powered by geothermal energy and hydropower.
A large proportion of societal functions used in our daily lives is dependent on seamless space infrastructure. Availability needs to be high, as it drives resilience and security for a robust society. The ongoing war in Ukraine has once again shown the importance of resilient space functions, also for military operations. Insights from satellite data, transferred by satellite communication, plays a key role to foresee and managing any crises. There is also an urgent need to know what is flying up there, increasing the demands for Space Domain Awareness. Ability to rapidly respond to any attack on space assets have become increasingly important. Also in this context, Esrange will play an important role by providing rapid launch capability, in combination with existing capabilities for satellite operations and data-reception.
Democratic values and the rule of law
New satellites provide data and connects people anywhere and anytime. This provides access to information, enabling a more connected and transparent society. This is an important key to fostering a common democratic reality, consequently providing new opportunities to maintain consensus around the principles of rules of law. In all, this will benefit fundamental human rights and build a strong European and international society.
The exhibition also featured two large rockets on display inside the building:
ArianeGroup’s Themis rocket
In 2023, the European initiative for reusable rocketry, the ESA Themis program, will begin tests at Esrange. This will be a first-stage test aiming to achieve vehicle lift-off and recovery, known as “hop tests”. More info at https://www.ariane.group/en/news/roadmap-for-building-a-new-reusable-launcher/
“The Themis demonstrator of reusable main stage will start its first hop tests, here at Esrange space center in Kiruna, Sweden, making a series of low-altitude take-off and landings. This is an important step for Europe. Kiruna is where complementary and strategic initiatives meet, to conquer an essential technological innovation: reusability, paving the way to a more sustainable access to Space,” said Andre-Hubert Roussel, CEO of ArianeGroup.
Isar Aerospace’s Spectrum rocket
Currently, the next generation European rocket technology is being developed at Esrange’s state-of-the-art testbeds, where space companies are testing innovative multi-stage rockets and sustainable fuels. One of them is Isar Aerospace with their Spectrum rocket. More info at https://www.isaraerospace.com/spectrum