Sweden’s Esrange Gets its First Orbital Launch Customer

Image Credit: Perigee Aerospace

By Andrew Parsonson,
Published by European Spaceflight, 7 May 2024

South Korea’s Perigee Aerospace has signed a collaborative agreement with the Swedish Space Corporation to launch its Blue Whale 1 rocket from Esrange Space Center in Sweden.

Esrange was built by the European Space Research Organisation in 1964 to launch suborbital research missions. In 1972, ownership of the facility was transferred to the Swedish Space Corporation (SSC), a government-owned company that has managed the launch site since. In January 2023, SSC inaugurated the facility’s first launch pad capable of supporting orbital missions.

While ArianeGroup had signed on to perform short flights of its Themis reusable booster demonstrator, until this morning’s announcement, no company had signed on to launch a rocket capable of delivering satellites to orbit from the launch facility.

In its 7 May announcement, SSC explained that Perigee Aerospace expected to launch the first Blue Whale 1 mission from Esrange no earlier than 2025 following a successful maiden flight from South Korean soil.

“SSC has an impressive 50 years of launch heritage and the new orbital launch infrastructure at Esrange is laying the foundation for the years to come,” explained Perigee founder and CEO Yoon Shin. “By bringing our Blue Whale 1 rocket, soon ready for orbital missions, we will partner with SSC to create a state-of-the-art orbital launch service, including further delivery through SSC’s ground service offering.”

Blue Whale 1 is a two-stage rocket that will stand approximately 21 metres tall and feature a reusable first stage. According to the SSC announcement, the rocket will be capable of delivering 200-kilogram payloads into a 500-kilometre Sun-Synchronous Orbit. However, the company’s website states that the payload capacity to that particular reference orbit is only 170 kilograms.

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