With less than five million people, Norway is, population-wise, clearly a small nation. In terms of land area, however, we are comparable with Germany. If one includes ocean area, we are second only to Russia in Europe. In order to best manage and exploit in a sustainable manner these vast areas with a minute population, Norway must of necessity utilize the most efficient means.
With a location at the top of the world where the satellite orbits converge, the most efficient means include a major space component. On the basis of our potential and in response to our needs, the Norwegian Space Centre has defined a vision for 2015: Norway shall be the nation deriving the greatest benefits from Space. A strong industrial base is required if Norway shall move in the direction of this vision.
The benefits of space comprise a broad tapestry of issues, from basic research, through operational use of space infrastructure to industrial development. Norway has consistently focused its priorities on fields of space activity where we already excel, or where the parameters to excel are in place, or areas where we have specific national requirements. Quite frequently these areas are the same or closely linked. For Norway, the strongest emphasis and the greatest success has been in satellite telecommunications, a field where we had to excel because we needed reliable communication with our merchant fleet, the oil and natural gas installations and with our Svalbard community. Here we developed a world-leading industry to meet national needs, an initiative that succeeded because there was willingness for public investment which coexisted with a highly qualified industry.
Norway has developed scientific expertise, a strong industry and operational applications using radar from satellites. Norway was the first nation to introduce an operational oil spill service from satellite. Again this was the result of a fruitful interplay between public and private initiatives.
Even if commercial niches do exist within the space sector, the latter can only survive if the sector as a whole has a constant influx of public funding. The US has clearly understood this, while the understanding in Europe continues to lag. It was therefore an important milestone that Norway in connection with a Ministerial meeting in ESA late 2005 announced a near doubling in its investments in the European space programmes. This moved Norway from being a small nation in ESA to becoming a smaller nation among medium-sized nations.
The increased understanding of the need and potential for Norway in space, which in turn leads to increased investments, will allow Norwegian industry and research groups to participate in several important programmes at a substantial level. The increases are largest in the different technology programmes; this will enable Norwegian companies to maintain their competitiveness. The new investments in earth observation and navigation programmes will ensure high-quality industrial contracts while simultaneously covering national user needs.
The Norwegian Space Centre and national companies will have to work very hard to maintain high industrial spin-off effects on the increased investments. All involved parties are looking forward to this particular challenge with great anticipation.
Bo N. Andersen
Director General of the Norwegian Space Centre