Progress on science facilities

Climate observatory opens in Ny-Ålesund and Andøya Space Center gets support for satellite plans


Photo: Per Anders Bjørklund / Norwegian Mapping Authority
A new climate-monitoring observatory opened at Ny-Ålesund on June 6.

New Ny-Ålesund Observatory monitors climate

On June 6, the Norwegian Mapping Authority opened a new observatory at Ny-Ålesund in the Svalbard archipelago in the Artic. At 79°N latitude, it’s the world’s northernmost observatory of its sort.

Surrounded by the Brandal Lagoon on the King’s Fjord, its giant twin radio telescopes comprise a cornerstone in a global scientific infrastructure for geodesy, the branch of mathematics dealing with the shape and area of the Earth. The antennas receive signals emitted by quasars, which are massive objects that emit enormous amounts of energy and have star-like images at fixed points in the cosmos. The result is extremely accurate measurements that permit precise monitoring of earthbound attributes such as ice loss and sea level change.

(M. Michael Brady / Asker, Norway)

Andøya Space Center establishes satellite initiative subsidiary

May 4, 2018, brought the news that the Norwegian government will support a plan to establish a launch pad for small and commercial satellites from Andøya, in the form of a NOK 20 million loan to “find out whether it is possible to launch small satellites from Andøya.”

“This is good,” said “rocket manager” Odd Roger Enoksen of Andøya Space Center (ASC) on the phone to High North News.
“Initially we had envisioned something other than a loan, and a higher amount. However, we are very pleased that we have a solution and that we now have capital.” he added.

Enoksen, the managing director and CEO of Andøya Space Center, and Andøy’s mayor Jonni Solsvik have worked for a long time to establish a launch pad for small commercial satellites on Andøy island. They both hope that ASC in the near future will be at the forefront of the rapidly growing European market for launching of smaller commercial satellites.

In a best-case scenario, the establishment may provide 200 to 300 new local jobs, according to the founders, in addition to having national ripple effects.

The Andøya Space Center, established in 1962, is famous abroad for its high-tech community. It has many domestic and foreign customers, including NASA and the Norwegian Defense Ministry.

“We hold a firm belief in this,” Enoksen says. He tells High North News that a high number of prospective future customers are contacting ASC about their desire to launch satellites from Andøya in the future.

“In fact, we have so much faith in this that the board now has decided to establish Andøya Space Port as a new subsidiary in the enterprise,” he added.

The new subsidiary is in the process of being formally registered and will have a share capital of NOK 1 million. During the spring the ASC will add another NOK 20 million to this amount, following the government’s loan offer.

Andøy mayor Solsvik says of the loan announcement: “All in all, this is a great follow-up. We need this money to conduct and quality assure the project.”

The Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Fisheries owns a majority of the shares of ASC (90 percent), with Kongsberg Defense and AeroSpace owning the remaining 10 percent.

“My expectation is for the pre-project phase process to be followed up, and for the government and parliament to follow up through strengthening the company that they actually own, so that it is able to face the challenges that will come along the way. In sum, this is a good start,” Solsvik says.

(Hege Eilertsen; trans. Elisabeth Bergquist / High North News)

Further reading: The Norwegian Mapping Authority’s Geodetic Earth Observatory: Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard, NMA Factsheet, PDF:

This article originally appeared in the June 15, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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M. Michael Brady

M. Michael Brady was born, raised, and educated as a scientist in the United States. After relocating to the Oslo area, he turned to writing and translating. In Norway, he is now classified as a bilingual dual national.