Rise in Unwanted Activity Ahead of Andøya Spaceport Opening: Police Urges the Public to Be Alert

Ketil Olsen
Ketil Olsen, CEO of Andøya Space, is on track before the opening of Andøya Spaceport and believes the security to be sufficient. (Photo: Andøya Space)

The Nordland police report an increase in their attention to all areas with strategic targets for intelligence. This also applies to Andøya in Northern Norway, where Europe's first mainland spaceport opens in November. "We are alert but not worried," says CEO Ketil Olsen at Andøya Space.

Norsk versjon

On November 2nd, the first spaceport for the launch of satellites on the European mainland will open: Andøya Spaceport in Nordland, Northern Norway. Given that Norway is not beaten to the finish line by Esrange Space Center outside Kiruna in Northern Sweden or Saxavord Spaceport in Shetland. 

"The opening of the spaceport is an international event which also encompasses the civil community on Andøya," says the Nordland Chief of Police, Heidi Kløkstad, to HNN.

The new spaceport on Andøya in Vesterålen will send launch vehicles with small satellites into the Earth's orbit. In the future, it will be an important launch site for many Earth and sea observation satellites, among other things.

Andøya Spaceport is licensed for up to 30 launches a year, and the opening is said to mark a new era for Norway as an international space nation.

However, that includes increased unwanted interest. According to the Norwegian Intelligence Service's latest report, the threat situation involves digital breaches, economic pressure, military power, and diplomatic pressure, of which Russia and China are the main actors.

This is a major event of international attention.
Heidi Kløkstad, Nordland Chief of Police

Increased activity

Up toward the opening, the Nordland police have noticed an increase in Russian activity in the shape of the acquisition of property, Russian tourism, and other activity, and Kløkstad has warned against Russian intelligence on Andøya in an earlier interview with HNN.

"This is a major event of international attention," says the Chief of Police, who adds that this will be the first spaceport in the European mainland to have direct access to space.

"The spaceport is uniquely located and can launch rockets and satellites into polar orbits from Europe. And you do not have to be a rocket scientist to see that this is of interest to other countries," says the Chief of Police.

The police have, therefore, increased their attention to all areas with strategic targets for intelligence. This applies to the spaceport and Andøya Air Station, which has been allocated NOK 310 million in the suggested state budget 2024 for facilitating the reception of allied forces and freeing up areas for new businesses in Andøy municipality.

This does not include the already allocated NOK 176 million in the revised national budget this summer.

Also read

'In crises and war'

The government also wants to allocate NOK 150 million to the new spaceport for "necessary security measures to enable Andøya Spaceport to meet military requirements as a launch site for satellites that must be replaced in crises and war."

This entails that the Norwegian Armed Forces and NATO can utilize the spaceport, when needed, to quickly replace lost satellites or strengthen existing ones as part of the allied security policy for the deterrence of Russia.

The suggested state budget also states:

"Space-based sensors provide a unique opportunity to follow both military and civilian activity in our northern areas of interest. To facilitate the Armed Forces and our close allies' access to secure and shielded space launching, the government is setting aside NOK 150 million for security measures at Andøya Spaceport."

The government also plans to allocate a further NOK 150 million next year.

Heidi Kløkstad
The Nordland Chief of Police, Heidi Kløkstad, urges people to stay alert. (Photo: Trine Jonassen)

Sabotage and military attacks

Furthermore, the government followed up on the decision in the revised national budget of a new inner perimeter around the Armed Forces' compact area and move an ICT unit on Andøya with a total sum of NOK 283 million.

"Satellites can be the subject of sabotage and military attacks in a future security policy crisis. Andøya Spaceport will then be an important strategic resource for both civilian and military launching of satellites from Europe and a national contribution in allied space investments through NATO," said Norwegian Minister of Defense Bjørn Arild Gram to Norwegian broadcaster NRK in September.

As Andøya is now a larger and more visible place on the map than before, the Nordland Chief of Police asks the population to stay alert and be attentive to what is happening around them.

There may be acts of sabotage at the spaceport and shooting down of other satellites.
Heidi Kløkstad, the Nordland Chief of Police.

Should the locals be suspicious of their neighbors?

"They do not have to be suspicious of their neighbor, but be aware of people and activity they consider suspicious. If one sees local activity in light of Russian intelligence, it is easier to imagine that such things could happen," says the Chief of Police.

Russia needs other sources

What types of intelligence are currently most relevant?

"There may be acts of sabotage at the spaceport and shooting down of other satellites. After the war, Russia has lacked information about what is happening, like rescue exercises or conferences. They must get this information from the inside, and they need other sources," Kløkstad warns.

She emphasizes that it is crucial for the political leadership to be aware of this.

"Politicians are targets for intelligence," Kløkstad concludes.

Andoya Spaceport
Andøya Space is building Norway's new spaceport, Andøya Spaceport, just outside Nordmela on Andøya. (Illustration: Andøya Spaceport)

Always a high level of security

The CEO of Andøya Space has not noticed what Kløkstad describes as an increased activity but entirely agrees with her call for vigilance.

"She asks the Nordland business sector to wake up, and we agree. It is positive that she reminds us all about the security work that must be conducted. But we have operated for 60 years, and this type of security work is normal for us. We have been aware of these challenges for a long time," says Olsen to HNN.

So you are not noticing increased activity?

"No, but that depends on what you compare it with. During the Cold War, there was also a lot of attention on intelligence. Then there have been some quieter years, but we always keep a high level of security," Olsen says and adds that the basic level is to protect values, technology, and resources at Andøya Space.

"But we support the Chief of Police in this. The satellite services are so crucial that we must be prepared when needed."

"Not worried"

Have you introduced extra preparedness up toward the opening?

"No, we continue with the high level of security that we already have, and we follow the national intelligence and security service's recommendations regarding threat and risk assessment," says Olsen, pointing to the intelligence service's assessment of relevant security challenges from Russia, China, and international terrorism.

"We protect our expertise and technology, and I myself face 40 years of experience from the Armed Forces."

So you are not worried about the development?

"No. Alert, but not worried."

Also read

Part of our spine

How do you work against data breaches and digital security?

"We must be so good that we prevent possible intruders from breaking into our systems. Our robust infrastructure allows us to keep as high a level as we do."

The government emphasizes the civilian population as a crucial part of the total defense in Norway. How do you work towards civilians?

"What is nice about living in a defense municipality is that we are used to being alert. It is a part of our spine. The civilian population is a part of the total defense on Andøya," says the CEO.

The fifth domain

The militarization of space is well underway, and the Norwegian Intelligence Service was made responsible for the Armed Forces' space operations in 2021. In 2022, the Armed Forces' space operations center was established, and Andøya Space is now part of the Norwegian Armed Forces' preparedness in what NATO refers to as the "fifth domain."

There is political will for double use, both civilian and military.
Ketil Olsen, CEO of Andøya Space

The other domains are land, sea, air, and cyberspace.

Back then, in 2019, the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, told News Agency NTB that NATO does not have plans to militarize space but also said that satellites can be jammed, hacked, and used as weapons. 

The CEO of Andøya Space believes cooperation with the Armed Forces will be good.

"We are building a commercial spaceport based on the mission that the Norwegian Government has given us. That is our focus. And there is political will for double use, both civilian and military. And that is good because the services located in space have become very important," says Olsen.

Be it communication, navigation, surveillance, or warning.

"We must facilitate the rapid launch of satellites and be able to replace possible failed satellites quickly. That will provide security for society and us, who depend on satellite services."

The Norwegian space strategy points to the following strategic benefit of the spaceport's location: Maritime user needs, as Norway is on the edge of Europe with significant oil, gas, and fishing interests. Geographical location since the High North and the Arctic give Norwegian operators a competitive advantage in the form of a favorable geographical location for satellite ground infrastructure. (Map: Google Maps)

On track

How quickly is it possible to replace a satellite?

"An American attempt made it in 58 hours."

And that is fast?

"Yes, that is fast! But we will have the systems ready within a few days, at least."

Are you on track for the opening on November 2nd?

"Yes, we are on track. The schedule is tight, but we will be ready. This will be wonderful for Norway."

Finally, will you win the satellite race against Sweden and the UK?

"I hope so! We are not in a bad position, in any case," says the optimistic CEO.

HNN did not succeed in getting a comment on the threat situation from Andøya's recently replaced mayor, Knut A. Nordmo (Labor). The municipality's newly elected mayor, Kjell Are Johansen (Center), did not have a lot to say on the matter other than "it is useful and important to listen to the government."

About Andøya Spaceport and Isar Aerospace:

Andøya Spaceport is a wholly owned subsidiary of Andøya Space, focusing on providing a launch site and related services for companies who wish to launch small satellites into polar and sun-synchronous orbits.

Andøya Spaceport operates a complete toolbox, including tracking radar, telemetry, and ground-based flight termination systems.

The location on Andøya is ideal since the launch vehicles can reach orbit without crossing the borders of other countries.

Andøya Spaceport is central to developing the Norwegian and European space industry.

Isar Aerospace, based in Ottobrunn/Munich, develops and builds launch vehicles for transporting small and medium-sized satellites and satellite constellations into Earth’s orbit.

The company was founded in 2018 as a spin-off of Technical University Munich.

Since then, it has grown to more than 300 employees from more than 40 nations with many years of hands-on rocket know-how and experience within other high-tech industries.

Also read