This Arctic space center could be the first to launch satellites from mainland Europe.

More space launches have been made in 2021 than ever before, and more records will be broken in the years to come.

2022 will be another exceptional year for space exploration, eclipsed by rising tensions with Europe’s largest space partner, Russia.

According to experts, it has become easier to send satellites into orbit thanks to their smaller size and cheaper price than a few years ago, and Europe is now trying to take advantage of it.

As we embark on a more independent path, the Esrange Space Center in Sweden is one of the possible candidates for Europe’s first satellite launch.

Although Europe has a space center on Kourou in French Guiana, there has never been a satellite sent directly into space from mainland Europe.

But the Swedish spaceport says this could happen by the end of next year.

geographic advantage

Portugal’s Azores, Norway’s Andoya, Spain’s Andalusia and Britain’s Shetland Islands are vying for the honor of launching Europe’s first satellite.

The Swedish Space Agency (SSC) says its location 200km above the Arctic Circle makes the Esrange space center a chance candidate.

“We clearly think we are the most advanced,” says Mattias Abrahamsson, Head of Business Development at SSC.

In this area of ​​5 thousand 200 square kilometers, where no one lives, we can easily launch a rocket flying or falling into this area without harming anyone.

“We have 5,200 square kilometers of uninhabited space in this area, so we can easily launch a rocket flying and falling into this area without harming anyone,” says Abrahamsson.

Orbiting the North and South Poles is sufficient for many satellites, and the rockets under development in Sweden as in the rest of Europe are “microrockets”.

They are about 30 m long and have a payload of several hundred kilograms.

“Instead of launching a single large satellite, you’re spreading it across multiple smaller satellites, which increases demand,” said Philip Påhlsson, Project Manager for New Esrange.

Also, having a launch site close to European customers saves them and their satellites from long boat trips to Kourou.

The satellite industry is booming, and the Swedish state-owned company is in talks with several rocket manufacturers and customers looking to put their satellites into orbit.

But the SSC says working in the harsh Arctic climate “brings its challenges.”

In this period, when temperatures regularly drop to -20 or -30 degrees, special attention should be paid to the fact that the metals used become more brittle in the cold.

‘New Esrange’ project

Esrange, which was established by the European Space Agency (ESA) in 1966 to study the atmosphere and the Northern Lights phenomenon, has invested heavily in its facilities in recent years to send satellites into space.

The new hangar is large enough to house two 30-metre rockets, which are currently being assembled elsewhere.

In the future, SSC aims to carry more than one tonne of cargo.

“This is a huge improvement, the biggest step we’ve taken since Esrange’s inception,” said Påhlsson.

More than 600 suborbital rockets have been launched from this remote corner of the far north of Sweden, including the Suborbital Express 3, which launched in November.

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