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Kiruna: a Swedish space centre

Kiruna's geographical location in the auroral zone and near the North Pole has constituted a natural resource for conducting space activities, inter alia, for space research and for operating satellites in polar orbits, scientific satellites and Earth observation satellites.

The Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF) was established in Kiruna in 1957. The primary task of the Institute is to carry out basic research, education and associated observatory activities in space physics. IRF is also an affiliate of the International Space University.

Esrange, the space research range situated north of the Arctic Circle at a latitude of about 68o N, was established in the early 1960s and has been operated by SSC since 1972. Esrange's geographical location, at high latitude, makes studies of the aurora and other high-latitude phenomena of particular interest.

Furthermore, the possibility for land recovery makes Esrange very suitable for all sounding rocket experiments needing recovery, for instance for microgravity research. Payloads are normally recovered by helicopter within one hour from launch. The sounding rocket activities at Esrange are carried out as a special ESA project with France, Germany, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland as participating States. Esrange has the capacity to launch most types of sounding rocket, including high-performance vehicles. The spinning rocket attitude control system (SPINRAC) has been developed by Saab Ericsson Space for rockets reaching altitudes of 800-1,000 km. With the MAXUS sounding rocket for microgravity experiments, payloads of 500 kg can be launched to an altitude of 1,000 km, which allows microgravity conditions for 13-15 minutes compared with the 6-7 minutes possible earlier.

At Esrange, scientific balloons with a volume up to 2 million cubic metres can be launched, allowing a payload of 2 tons to be carried to an altitude of 45 km. Balloon-borne instruments are used for atmospheric (e.g. depletion of the ozone layer) and astronomical studies and for experiments in microgravity.

Esrange is also used in various satellite projects and a number of ground facilities for the support of national and international spacecraft programmes. It operates and monitors satellites on behalf of customers or offers use of the station in a transparent mode where remote customers are connected to the station for realtime access to their satellites. The ground control station for the Swedish telecommunication and direct broadcasting satellite (DBS) series Sirius is also located at Esrange.

A facility for the reception, recording, archiving, processing and dissemination of remote sensing satellite data was established at Esrange in 1978. The station was originally used for spacecraft in the LANDSAT series and operated within the framework of the ESA Earthnet programme. The station has been extended to handle data from both remote sensing and scientific satellites and has several independent antennas and processing systems.

ESA has established a ground station for the Earth observation satellites ERS 1, ERS 2 and ENVISAT at Salmijärvi, in the vicinity of Esrange. The station is operated by SSC.

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