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50 years in space

Norway became a space nation when the first research rocket was launched from Andøya Rocket Range 18 August 1962. More than one thousand rockets have been launched from Andøya since then.

“Today, Andøya is the world’s leading polar launching range for research rockets,” says Bo Andersen, director general at the Norwegian Space Centre. “As of today, we know that the Northern Lights vary with solar activity and the conditions in the Earth’s magnetic field. We also know that the sun affects satellites and technology on Earth and that space influences the weather. The international research environment using Andøya as a research platform has contributed to today’s knowledge about the interactions between the sun and the Earth.”

From Local Barrack to National Industry
The expansion of the Andøya Rocket Range from a barrack and a simple ramp in the 1960s to today’s installation with control room, observation tower, assembly hall, teaching room and hotel is also an illustration of the development of Norwegian space activities.

In 2010 the total turnover of Norwegian produced goods and services in the space industry was NOK 5.7 billion.

“The success of Norwegian space industry is due to a systematic utilization of public funds from the time of Norwegian Telecom Research in the 1970s to the efforts of the Norwegian Space Centre today,” says Bo Andersen.

Close to 2,000 Norwegians have a job connected to space. Some of them work in the electronics field, some produce high technology items for satellites and rockets, while others deliver services based on space infrastructure. This includes everything from utilizing satellites for transmitting TV-, cell phone- and network signals to interpreting radar images that can reveal oil spills at sea.

andøya rocket range
© Andøya Rocket Range
The first rocket launched from the Andøya
Rocket Range was called Ferdinand-1. It was
launched 18 August 1962 and its mission was
to map the conditions in the atmosphere.


It’s Profitable
When Norway became a member of the European Space Agency (ESA) in 1987 it was mainly for business policy reasons. ESA is an important player in technology and when the organization needs to build space probes or satellites, the tasks are given to industry companies in the member states. Through the years Norwegian industry has received contracts within a wide range of space technology, from rocket engines to scientific instruments.

Statistical data from the Norwegian Space Centre show that for every krone Norway puts into space activities, companies gain in average extra turnover of 4.8 krone in addition to ESA contracts and contracts under the national support scheme. Norwegian space activity is financially profitable and the effects are about on the same level as in the USA according to the 2011 OECD report “Space Economy at a Glance”.

Location, Location, Location
Seen from the equator, Norway is on the world’s periphery. However, if you change the perspective towards the North Pole, the county is in a central location, especially when it comes to polar orbiting Earth observation satellites.

Hundreds of satellites pass over Svalbard 14 to 15 times every 24 hours. The world’s largest ground station for polar satellites is located in Longyearbyen at Svalbard. SvalSat receives data from American, European and Asian satellites and sends the information along to owners and users worldwide.

Large Areas, Few People
The sea areas around Norway are enormous and they need to be managed properly. Vulnerable environmental conditions, large natural resources, a harsh climate and few people are a challenge. Information from satellites has become essential for managing two million square kilometres of sea, an area that comes to half of the EU.

As early as the 1970s researchers in Norway used data from radar satellites to track oil spills and boats that were fishing illegally. Radar satellites are advantageous because they see through clouds and darkness. This is of great benefit in a part of the world where total lack of sunlight lasts for months during winter and the weather is rough.

Small, but Efficient
“In the 1960s we thought there would be colonies on the moon by 1980 and the first Mars landing was to happen before the year 2000,” says Bo Andersen. “It has not turned out this way. Space has become an arena for communication with and observation of the Earth.”

In 2010, Norway launced its first national observation satellite. AISSat-1 is a small satellite at 20x20x20 cm, weighing 6 kilograms. It flies in a polar orbit at 630 km and transmits signals from seagoing vessels to a reception chain on land. The goal is to have safer ship traffic, especially in the northern areas where navigational coverage is more of a challenge than further south.

“Instead of focussing on the universe, space has become a necessary tool for operating our modern society. AISSat-1 proves that infrastructure in space is becoming just as important as ground based infrastructure,” says Andersen. This success has lead to AISSat-2 being under construction while a third AIS satellite is under review.

Arena for Cooperation
AISSat-1 is also an example of international cooperation in space offering the best solutions. The instruments onboard were developed and built in Norway. The platform is Canadian while the satellite was launched on an Indian rocket. A budget of NOK 30 million for this first satellite has attracted international attention.

Andersen emphasizes that Norway as a small player in space always will be dependent on international cooperation that functions well in order to build the necessary infrastructure in space.

“The costs for completing projects that all countries benefit from are so high that international cooperation is necessary for success. However, not only small countries need cooperative countries; interdependence goes both ways,” says Andersen. “In space all countries are small, even if all of the large countries have not realized it yet!”

50 years in space
© Norwegian Space Centre/Norwegian
Defence Research Establishment/NASA/ nyhetsgrafikk.no

AISSat-1 was launched in 2010 and was Norway’s
first national observation satellite. It flies in a polar
orbit and makes conditions safer for ships to
travel up north and in the areas around Svalbard.
The satellite measures 20x20x20 cm and weighs
6 kg. A new satellite, AISSat-2, is under construction
and a third one is being planned.

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