Twenty-five years ago, the first issues of Nordicspace was published. At the time it was titled “Nordic Space Activities”, and it was published in printed version and in the Nordic languages and mainly distributed to the Nordic countries, however, some copies were also distributed around the world. Over the course of the next fifteen years, the periodical was distributed in printed version, then it finally became electronically distributed, until all articles finally became published through the web-site “www.nordicspace.net”. The main objective has remained the same in all those years, however, aimed at being a “Periodical for Space-related Education, Research and Industry”.
In retrospect we think back to what the main topics were tventy-five years ago.
We focused on what had happened regarding the international space activities in the time before 1992. The Soviet Union was dissolved, and the Cold War had ended. The space race between the United States and the Soviet Union was nearly over and a time of more cooperation than competition was initiated. The Soviet space station Mir was in service, the American Space Shuttle flew regularly, and the preliminary plans for an American space station was on the table, today known as the International Space Station, with participation from the whole world. In Europe, the European Union was in expanding, while the European Space Agency, ESA, established in 1975, included three of the Nordic Countries.
Space research and space utilisation played a huge role in modern society and especially utilisation was in an in expanding phase. In Europe the meteorological satellites Meteosat, was already in service and had been the main source for meteorological data. Earth observations was in the early phase, with the launch of the Frence/Belgian/Swedish Spot 1 in 1986 and the first European Radar Satellite ERS-1 in 1991. Together, the three satellites were the small beginning of the European earth observation program as we know it today. In 1989 Sweden had launched telecommunication satellite Tele-X, originally a Norwegian/Swedish program that broke down. Sweden had also launched the scientific satellite Viking in 1986, while the scientific satellite, Freja was developed and built and been launched later in 1992. Denmark developed the Ørsted satellite and delivered also scientific instruments to Soviet satellites.
The new polar orbiting satellites, like ERS-1, needed ground stations to manage the satellites and receive data and ground stations were established near Kiruna, Sweden and in Tromsø, Norway, based on the high latitudes.
What else happened in Europe around 1992 – 93?
The astronomy satellite Hipparcos was fully operative after two years and was given additional lifetime to 1994. Ulysses, launched in 1990, the first satellite that orbited over the Sun’s poles was operative and ha a planned lifetime scheduled to the end of 1995, but ended up with a lifetime of more than seventeen years. The maritime communication satellite Marecs was in orbit, developed and built by ESA, but leased to Inmarsat for commercial use. The communication satellites ECS-4 and -5 were also launched, operative and leased by Eutelsat.
A series of projects were in the developing phase. SOHO, launched in 1995 was expected to have a lifetime of two years, but is still operative, despite of the fact that some of the instruments are out of service. Huygens, that in 2004 landed at Titan was in the early developing phase. The same goes for ESA’s XMM-Newton space observatory, the flagship of European X-ray astronomy. The launcher program developing the Ariane 5, the very successful workhorse. Originally the Hermes space shuttle was on the top, but Hermes was later cancelled. The Columbus space laboratory, that was connected to the International Space Station in 2008, vas in the developing phase. The free flying EURECA platform was in the finally building phase, and was launched with the Space Shuttle in 1992, and retrieved again in June 1993, after 326 days of space exposure in an orbit od 500 km.
ESA’s Infrared Space Observatory (ISO) was also in the developing phase, launched in 1995 and operative until the spring of 1998.
In the first issue of Nordic Space Activities, from February 1993, the headings were.
- Finnish Space Activities. Introduction of Finnish space research activities.
- Satellitbild. Producer of satellite pictures and maps.
- Freja in orbit. Sweden’s second scientific satellite successfully launched.
- The Ørsted-project. Danish minisatellite measuring the Earth’s magnetic fields.
- EIK Ground Station – a Nordic Cooperation project within marine communication.
- Forest Research at Satellite Pictures. The beginning of forest inventories
- Norwegian participation in Topex/Poseidon. The first ocean level satellite.
- Nordic EURECA-experiments. Microgravity experiments at retrieval platform in space.
What has happened within these fields in the twenty years since that?
Many of the projects were in the early beginning the first years of the nineties, however, many projects have been highly successful, and have contributed to the scientific and commercial use of space we see today.
Later this year we will follow up on some of the projects described in the first issue of “Nordic Space Activities”, and possibly, find the red thread to today’s use of space.