The first of Europe’s new spaceports officially opens in Sweden

Esrange spaceport Kiruna Sweden © SSC

It’s true that it was missing, most of the major space powers have a site dedicated to their polar launches. SSC Credits

On January 13, the inauguration of the Esrange took place with great fanfare in Kiruna, Sweden. European officials and crowned heads congratulated themselves for this great first, which first consisted in extending a historic site… But the competition already looks fierce between small spaceports.

And even the Guiana Space Center has not said its last word.

Welcome to Sweden

Kiruna is not a tourist town. It is a mining station in the north of Sweden, so there is a lot of heavy equipment, mechanics, workers, engineers and technicians who rotate on site… And then, 40 kilometers away, there is at Esrange. A space site installed in 1964 and managed since the 1970s by the SSC, the Swedish Space Corporation, a public and state-owned company. It is for the moment very little known outside space specialists, because there are few reporters on site and it was not spectacular until now: a network of antennas for the reception of satellite data, accompanied launch complexes dedicated to sounding rockets, i.e. suborbital launches. But all of this is set to evolve, because the Esrange inaugurated its brand new orbital complex on Friday, enough to enter the market of European “spaceports” with both feet. The goal is simple: with the new infrastructure in place, attract NewSpace players to come and test their engines, then fly regularly into space and orbit from Sweden.

Come, come customers!

For the occasion, His Majesty the King of Sweden had made the trip, but he was not the only one since we also found Ursula Von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, Joseph Aschbacher the Director of the ESA, as well as several officials and members of future companies who already have agreements to use the new spaceport. And the Swedes will count on their German customers from the launcher startups to make themselves known. Rocket Factory Augsburg is testing engines and stages there, ISAR Aerospace should launch rockets there, Hyimpulse could also decide… The other big name at this inauguration was obviously ArianeGroup, which had brought a prototype (or a model) of its Themis floor. Funded by the ESA and the European Union, the Themis reusable demonstrator program will fly for the first time from Esrange by next year, depending on the results of its new engine running on methane and oxygen. liquid, Prometheus (the latter is being tested between France and Germany).

Outrageous competition

Behind a communication that praises the European entrepreneurial spirit, with a need resulting from real demands from launcher players, hides a fierce competition between the various emerging spaceports. Indeed, they have to set up administrative authorizations and infrastructures to attract customers… Who have, in a few years, discovered that they were spoiled for choice. L’Esrange is indeed a historic site with a long experience of launchers, but despite this fine inauguration, it is not easy to ensure the future. There is the Andøya site in Norway, but also that of Saxavord in the north of Scotland, which has shown good momentum recently. And that’s without forgetting the Guiana Space Center, which intends to open its doors to NewSpace with the Diamond site modified into a “multi-user” launch pad in the years to come.



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