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New centre to be hub for space research


Published Feb 27, 2014

Technologies for extreme conditions, rocket experiments and studies in space tourism. These are some of the activities in store for the new space centre that opens at KTH Royal Institute of Technology on March 1.

 Astronaut Christer Fuglesang, the first Swede to fly in space, is the centre’s director.

“The KTH Space Centre will be a hub for Swedish space research and technology, and it makes the university a focal point for space related activities,” says Fuglesang, Adjunct Professor of Space Physics. 

Christer Fuglesang (Photo: KTH/Press

The introduction of the centre is part of the university’s ambition that more students will make the connection between their scientific and technology studies and space science.

“Space is fascinating. I thought that when I first started studying it – and I still think so. I want to awaken the passion for space in young people,” Fuglesang says.

Space research is driven within several scientific areas at KTH. The centre has the task of linking research threads and ensuring that space activities benefit from interdisciplinary collaborations. The aim is that this will lead to KTH taking on larger space projects, and increase the visibility of the university's space activities internationally.

Fuglesang is planning the first interdisciplinary project for the center.

“Our ambition is to develop a satellite project that involves multiple groups within KTH. Among other things, it should stimulate students who will build the satellite together with researchers,” Fuglesang says.

KTH space activities that will be connected with the centre include: 

  • Development of electronics that can withstand the planet Venus’ extremely hot temperature. On Earth, the electronics could be used for monitoring nuclear power plants, volcano research, or be used at depths beneath the Earth’s surface.
  • Research in the measurement of the magnetic field. There are studies in space physics, space weather and geophysics (Earth's magnetic field).
  • Research on health and technology, focusing on medicine and physiology in the space environment, as well as radiation on space stations.
  • Research related to dark matter, which is about understanding how the universe works.
  • The research project SPHINX, which is linked to gamma radiation in space.
  • Research based on satellites for Earth observation, for urban development, development of forests, weather and climate, among other things.
  • Materials research to create better materials.
  • Rocket experiments in which university students from Europe design and build inventions that are sent up in balloons and sounding rockets from Esrange, Sweden, near Kiruna. The REXUS/BEXUS student program, is a collaboration between the Swedish National Space Board, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the German Space Agency (DLR). Several KTH students are admitted to the program.
  • Education in space-related subjects, such as space tourism and human spaceflight.

The centre starts as a test operation for approximately two years. It is run virtually, meaning that those who operate within the centre do not necessarily share a building. If the centre is successful, it will be considered as established. KTH is contributing SEK 500,000 per year for the operation. It is hoped that it will even get access to external funds.

“I'm hoping for synergies within research and collaborations with industry,” Fuglesang says.

The centre's activities may also result in spin-offs in services and products. There could be materials and technologies that are developed to work well in space, but that also are used in people's daily lives, such as Gore-Tex material and Bluetooth technology.

Jenny Axäll

Space inventions

Examples of inventions that were developed in space projects and programs, and are now widely used on Earth.

  • Image technology behind digital camera
  • Gore-Tex material
  • Wireless communications, including Bluetooth
  • Computer software development, which is used in automobile production and for constructing roller coasters.
  • Ear thermometer for children and adults
  • Tools to help farmers detect crop losses, even before it is visible to the human eye.
  • Handheld vacuum
  • Freeze dried food

Source: Swedish National Space Board

About SNSB and ESA

(Photo: NASA)

Swedish National Space Board (SNSB)

The Swedish National Space Board, SNSB, is a central governmental agency under the Ministry of Education and Research. SNSB is responsible for national and international activities relating to space and remote sensing, primarily research and development.

Learn more about SNSB

European Space Agency (ESA)

The European Space Agency (ESA) is Europe's gateway to space. Its mission is to shape the development of Europe's space capability and ensure that investment in space continues to deliver benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.

Learn more about ESA