Jump to main content

In short: Why is Norway a Space Nation?

Norway is a small, but active space nation, and was one of the first countries to launch rockets.

There are many reasons Norway looked to space. Here is the short version:

Norway was and is a shipping nation. Thus, Norway had a need for satellite communication with ships all over the world and with off-shore installations in the North Sea.

Norway joined the International Maritime Satellite Organization (Inmarsat), founded in 1976, early. Norway was also one of the largest owners of Inmarsat, before the organization was commercialized. Telenor was an early adopter of satellite communication and bought its first satellite in 1992.

A sub orbital rocket launch from Andøya Space in Northern Norway.

A sub-orbital rocket launch from Andøya Space in Northern Norway.

Andøya Space

In the 1970s, the world's oceans were divided into economic zones. With that, Norway's area increased greatly, and the country needed to monitor large sea areas for maritime activity. Norway wanted to use radar satellites for this purpose, and made a cooperation agreement with Canada for data from Radarsat-1. This satellite was launched in 1995.

In 1987, Norway joined the European Space Agency, ESA, and gained access to the data from ESA's radar satellite ERS-1, which was launched in 1991. Since then, Norway has participated in most of ESA's programs. Norway is also actively participating in the EU´s space programs.

As an oil producing nation, drilling from deep offshore sites, Norway has gathered a work force with competence in highly advanced technology. This is certainly an advantage for the national space sector.

The first sounding rocket for scientific research was launched from Andøya as early as 1962. The Norwegian scientists wanted to know more about the ionosphere and how it affects radio communication. Later, the launches from Andøya were done for basic research on the northern lights and the atmosphere.

Today, Andøya Space is building Andøya Spaceport, a launch base for small satellites for commercial and governmental use.