Since the mid-1960s a space station has been operating in Sweden, 200km north of the Arctic Circle.
Founded by the European Space Agency (ESA) in 1966 to study the atmosphere and Northern Lights phenomenon, the Esrange space centre at Jukkasjärvi has invested heavily in its facilities in recent years to be able to send satellites into orbit.
The remoteness of the site with its vast deserted forests surrounding the station is the very reason the location was chosen according to Mattias Abrahamsson, the Swedish Space Corporation’s Director Of Business Development.
“In this area, we have 5,200 square kilometres where no one lives, so we can easily launch a rocket that flies into this area, falling down without anyone getting harmed,” he explained.
More than 600 rockets have already been launched from Jukkasjärvi, but so far they have all been suborbital flights. Usually, the missions have been concerned with scientific research.
“It’s a bit like a Lego,” said Krister Sjölander, Manager of Payloads & Flight Systems, ” we are taking the different experiments in sections and adding one to another. (…) This is one of the experiments, this is planetary formation, but we also have biology experiments we have material science and fluid experiments on board.”
There are other launch sites in Europe, such as in the Azores (Portugal), Norway, the Shetland Islands off the UK, and the Spanish region of Andalusia. But the researchers at Jukkasjarvi think they’re ahead of the pack and hopes are high that their rockets could be carrying satellites into space as early as next year.