Press Release

New Swedish balloon and rocket programs

By SpaceRef Editor
June 11, 2007
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Last week, 250 scientists, engineers and experts gathered for an international space conference in Visby, Sweden. The four-day conference focused mainly on European balloon and rocket programs and research performed by means of balloons and rockets.

Most of these projects have been conducted at the Swedish Space Corporation’s (SSC) operational base Esrange Space Center near Kiruna in northern Sweden. Since it was founded in 1966, Esrange Space Center has provided technical facilities and operational services to many successful scientists in various fields and from many countries. In the latest years, most research at Esrange has been performed by foreign scientists, but recently, plans for several new Swedish space projects have been presented. Two of them are already taking shape – the balloon-borne telescope PoGOLite and the rocket project PHOCUS (see below).

Additionally, the Swedish National Space Board and the German space agency DLR recently signed a five-year contract to strengthen the space education programs in both countries. Some hundred students a year will get the opportunity to take part in rocket and balloon projects based at Esrange. For Sweden to maintain its high competence within both space research and space technology, it is important that Swedish scientists and students make use of the facilities and services offered at Esrange Space Center. Since the 1960’s, Sweden has also contributed strongly to the development of the European sounding rocket program, including a number of advanced ground-based instruments. Since the mid-70’s, we have also built technical competence for the launching of large balloons, e.g. for advanced measurements of chemical processes in the Earth’s atmosphere.

PoGOLite – Swedish space scientists open a new window to Universe

Universe has fascinated man in all times. To study some of the Universe’s most interesting objects, in this project, a telescope will be carried to 40 km altitude by a large stratospheric balloon from Esrange Space Center. By measuring the polarization of gamma-rays (photons with very high energies), the research team will study neutron stars, active galactic nuclei and black holes. Initially, the research team has applied for funds to realize a first flight in the summer of 2009, but there will hopefully be several more flights during a few years to come. The project, named PoGOLite (“light-weight Polarised Gamma-ray Observer”), is lead by Mark Pearce, professor of physics at the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology, in collaboration with science teams from the U.S. and Japan.

“Thanks to the possibility of lifting large and heavy experiments with balloons from Esrange, and have them flying for several days, Swedish scientists can break new grounds with these measurements”, says Mark Pearce. “This is a fantastic opportunity for Sweden to take a leading role in a new branch of astrophysics”, Pearce adds.

Read more about the project on PoGOLite’s web site (

PHOCUS – a rocket mission to explore the atmosphere Each day, 10 to 100 tonnes of small meteoroids burn up in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Scientists believe that the meteoroid dust particles affect many processes in the atmosphere, from the formation of clouds to chemical reactions and electrical phenomena. The PHOCUS project comprises a number of measure instruments that will study particles in the upper atmosphere. The instruments will be flown on a rocket, developed by SSC, from Esrange Space Center in the summer of 2009. The project is lead by Joerg Gumbel, associate professor of atmosphere physics at the University of Stockholm. It is based on comprehensive cooperation with research groups in Sweden, Germany, Norway, Austria and the U.S. The name PHOCUS stands for “Particles, Hydrogen and Oxygen Chemistry in the Upper Summer mesosphere”, which denotes the basic scientific ideas of the project.

“Meteoroids are good examples of how space can affect the Earth’s atmosphere. We are very much looking forward to learning more about these processes”, says Joerg Gumbel.

Read more on the PHOCUS web site (

Read more about planned rocket and balloon projects at Esrange Space Center Launching programme, Rocket campaigns 2007, Balloon campaigns 2007

For more information, please contact

Olle Norberg, Head of Esrange Space Center, SSC E-mail:, Tel: +980 720 42, +46 70 587 20 42

Johanna Bergstroem-Roos, information manager at Esrange Space Center, SSC E-mail: Tel: +46 980 720 24, +46 70 544 60 21

Mark Pearce, professor of physics, Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) E-mail:, Tel: +46 8 55 37 81 83

Joerg Gumbel, associate professor of atmosphere physics, Department of Meteorology, Stockholm University

E-mail:, Tel: +46 8 16 43 43

The Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) is a comprehensive space industry. We develop, launch and operate space systems and perform tests of new aerospace systems. SSC’s space engineering center in Solna develops space vehicles and airborne maritime surveillance systems. Space operations and tests are performed at Esrange Space Center, SSC’s operational base in north Sweden. (

SpaceRef staff editor.