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Sweden backs plans for Arctic satellite launchpad

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Sweden backs plans for Arctic satellite launchpad
More than 500 rockets have been fired from Esrange since 1966. Photo: Esrange
17:08 CEST+02:00
Sweden's government has backed plans to build Europe's first launchpad for small satellites in an important step forward for the Swedish space industry.
The plan for the new site at Esrange, Sweden's Arctic space base, is part of the new national space strategy announced on Wednesday by Helene Hellmark Knutsson, Sweden's minister for higher education. 
 
"Esrange, our own space base, will be modernised and upggraded to build a test bed where rocket techniques can be appraised," Hellmark Knutsson said at a press conference. "And in the next stage, it can be developed to make it possible to send up small satellites into orbit around the earth."
 
The new strategy did not however commit to funding the new facility, which the Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) has estimated will cost around 500 million Swedish kronor ($50m). 
 
Funding is expected to be discussed during budget discussions in the Swedish parliament this autumn. 
 
Stefan Gustafsson, Senior Vice President at SSC, welcomed the decision, saying it showed the government was finally "opening the doors" to the project. 
 
"There's a larger demand for launch facilities from the market than what is available today," he told The Local. "It's very important to be able to launch small satellites from European Union soil. Europe needs this." 
 
Small satellites, which range in size from a loaf of bread to a small washing machine, are one of the hottest new technologies for the space industry.  
 
"Small satellites are more and more important for societal functions and for developing a sustainable planet," Gustafsson said. "Lack of launching facilities is hampering the development of this important space infrastructure." 
 
More than 500 rockets and 500 high altitude balloons have been launched from the Esrange Space Centre  since it was established in 1966 at its site 200km north of the Arctic Circle. 
 
The centre is also used for controlling and receiving data from satellites launched from other sites.  
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