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Sweden opens Mainland Europe’s first satellite launch spaceport


Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson (L) watches European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivering a speech at the inauguration of the Spaceport Esrange’s new satellite launch ramp outside Kiruna, Sweden on Friday. Photo by Jonas Ekstroemer/EPA-EFE

Jan. 13 (UPI) — Sweden on Friday inaugurated and officially opened Mainland Europe’s first space facility for satellite launches.

Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf cut the ribbon in the city of Kiruna, around 25 miles from the new Spaceport Esrange.

The event was timed to coincide with Sweden taking over as the head of the Council of the European Union.

The facility in Northern Sweden gives the EU the ability to launch satellites, something only around 10 countries previously had the ability to do.

“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,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said during the inauguration.

Spaceport Esrange is operated by the government-owned Swedish Space Corporation, which already operates 10 ground stations strategically located around the world for optimum coverage, plus eight supplementary partner stations.

The corporation expects around 10,000 new satellites will be launched globally over the next few years, with the total number eclipsing 100,000 by 2040. There are around 5,000 operational satellites in orbit today.

The new facility gives Sweden and the rest of the EU better access to that growing world. It will also host testing of Europe’s initiative for reusable rocketry, the European Space Agency’s Themis program led by ArianeGroup, as well as suborbital test launches of several next generation rockets.

“This new launch complex will help create a foundation for a resilient Europe in Space. New satellite constellations in orbit, responsive launch capabilities and development of reusable rocketry will enable a secure, competitive and sustainable Europe. This will make Europe stronger,” SSC CEO Stefan Gardefjord said in a statement.

“This is a giant leap for SSC, for Sweden, for Europe and the rest of the world. Satellites are decisive for many functions of the daily lives of today’s modern world, and the need for them will only increase in the years to come with Space playing an even more important role.”

The first satellite launch is expected to launch by the end of the year.

“This leading-edge spaceport gives Europe the capabilities to address this growing demand. The benefits of small satellites, that can be launched from here, are immense. We have just heard that it is important to launch these satellites over and over, to have the reusability, to test them,” von der Leyen said Friday.

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