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The first spaceport in continental Europe begins operations

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The official opening of the European Union’s second spaceport, the Andøya spaceport, took place on 2nd November 2023 in Nordmela, Andøya Island, Norway. It became the launch site for the European launch services company Isar Aerospace. The opening of the spaceport was necessary because the war in Ukraine has made it impossible for European countries to use Russian spaceports. The new airport will allow EU countries to launch and orbit small and medium-sized satellites on their own, without external assistance.

The European Union already has a working spaceport. The story is that in 1964 the French government chose Kourou in French Guiana, South America, as the base for launching French satellites. When the European Space Agency (ESA) was created in 1975, the French government offered to share the Centre Spatial Guyanais (CSG) building with ESA. For its part, the ESA approved EU funding to upgrade the CSG’s launch facilities to enable it to launch the Ariane satellite which that time was under development.

Before the war in Ukraine, the European Space Agency used Russian spaceports to launch its satellites into space, but EU sanctions against Russia because of the war made it impossible to continue this practice, so a suitable site had to be found in Europe, as the spaceport in South America was fully loaded. At the same time, the space market is currently in great demand for launchers capable of launching satellites into orbit, as these launchers are in short supply worldwide.

The Andøya spaceport in Norway is far north of the coastline, making it ideal for launching satellites that need to orbit the Earth in a sun-synchronous orbit. In other words, it is a great opportunity for satellites that pass over a specific point on the Earth at the same time every day, which is ideal for satellites in polar orbit.

Once fully built up, Andøya Spaceport will have several launchpads to launch small to medium satellites into space. The first launch pad, which has already been completed, the payload integration facilities and the mission control centre will be reserved for Isar Aerospace, as they have been designed to the company’s specifications.

The first rocket, called Spectrum, will be launched from the island by the German start-up company, Isar Aerospace. The Spectrum rocket will be able to carry up to one tonne of payload into space. The exact launch date is not yet known, but the German company says the rocket will be delivered before the end of the year to allow the first test flight to take place « as soon as possible ».

Isar Aerospace Director Daniel Metzler said in a statement on the opening of the spaceport: « The European Union, Norway, the Andøya region and Isar Aerospace have taken a big step towards space. Over the past five years we have built a rocket that helps solve the most important bottleneck for the European space industry – sovereign and competitive access to space. Our team, together with Andøya Spaceport, has produced an outstanding piece of engineering, the first orbital launch pad in continental Europe to bring this access to space to Norway and in doing so bring it back to Europe. The rocket we have developed will be able to fill the biggest gap in the European space industry, which is to make the European Union’s dream of a self-sustained, competitive exit into space a reality ».

EU Briefs publie des articles provenant de diverses sources extérieures qui expriment un large éventail de points de vue. Les positions prises dans ces articles ne sont pas nécessairement celles d'EU Briefs.

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