Meld. St. 32 (2012-2013)

Between heaven and earth: Norwegian space policy for business and public benefit — Meld. St. 32 (2012–2013) Report to the Storting (White Paper)

To table of content


The previous time the Government asked the Storting to review an overall strategy for Norway in space was in St.meld. nr. 13 (1986–87): Om norsk romvirksomhet (On Norwegian space activity). In the 26 years that have passed since that white paper, our society’s relationship to space has changed greatly. Satellite-based services have become an important part of Norwegian daily life, from ordering a taxi to operating advanced offshore petroleum facilities. In 2012, the consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) evaluated key aspects of Norwegian space activity. The firm concluded that some aspects have worked as intended, but that improvement is needed in others. The Government therefore believes the time has come once more to anchor the broad guidelines of Norwegian space policy in the Storting.

Practical benefits have always been the chief aim of Norwegian space policy. Space activity has not been an end in itself, but a means to serve Norwegian interests. For this reason, most of Norway’s public-sector undertakings have been intended to create value in high-technology industries and to meet specific national needs in communication, navigation and earth observation. Often, the technology has been high-flying; but the goals have always been down-to-earth.

Our participation in the European Space Agency (ESA) has put us in a position to develop independent national technological capabilities while contributing to advances that have benefitted Norwegian and other European users alike. Norway has supplemented its ESA involvement with nationally focused development support, bilateral agreements and an ever-stronger partnership in recent years with the European Union. The international collaboration, like the domestic initiatives, has contributed to the development of important infrastructure and services.

The Government intends to maintain Norway’s down-to-earth orientation in space activities. The trends – with space infrastructure growing as a factor in everyday life and Norway relying on space to address key national interests such as the High North, the environment and climate policy – suggest that space policy in the years to come should focus even more directly on the practical needs of public administrators, businesses and private citizens. Today, a well-functioning society depends on technology that exploits space. Government policy must therefore seek to ensure that space activity can continue to be an instrument of Norwegian interests.

Norwegian space activities have always been – and will remain – dependent on international collaboration. To achieve results, we must be good at playing the cards we are dealt as technology, markets and international partnerships evolve. Today we can see that the game is changing, and that it may be necessary to adjust elements of Norwegian policy to better secure our interests.

There are three primary factors that could make policy adjustments necessary. The first is technological change. Technological advances in recent years have dramatically expanded the range of applications for space-based technology. The second factor that will help shape Norwegian space policy in the years ahead is a change in Norway’s own needs. Space-based technologies provide cost-effective options for addressing Norwegian policy challenges that have assumed central importance in the past few decades, such as management of the High North and climate and environmental issues. The third factor that will affect our scope of opportunity in the years ahead is change within the international organisations that have long represented the framework for Norwegian investment in space activity. Without international collaboration, a robust and efficient Norwegian space sector would be unthinkable. The best way to approach such collaboration in the future will depend on developments within the international forums to which we have access.

Those involved in Norway’s space effort can point to many success stories in the years since the previous white paper on space activity was submitted. Examples include the growth of competitive high-technology companies, the development of Norwegian AIS satellite technology, the broad phase-in of satellite-based services across Norway’s public sector and the development of Norwegian infrastructure. It would be an exaggeration, however, to say that Norway is a major space nation. Our strengths lie in certain industrial niches and in the application of space-based services. Compared with leaders in space like the United States and France, we will always be small. A small country must prioritise its resources, and there would be little point in attempting to create a major national space industry or to resolve to send Norwegian astronauts into space. Yet there is no alternative to increased space activity if we are to maintain our role as a leading nation in ocean shipping, High North stewardship, technology and the environment. Norwegian space activities contribute greatly to economic growth, sustainability and the ability of Norwegians to live safe and comfortable lives. In the years ahead, the Government will continue to work hard to maximise the benefits that Norway receives from its participation in space. This white paper forms the basis of the country’s continued involvement in space.

Structure of this White Paper

Chapter 1 lays out the Government’s goal for Norwegian space activity. Chapter 2 provides a historical overview, and identifies the global actors and driving forces behind modern space activity. Chapter 3 describes the emergence of Norwegian space activity, with emphasis on the country’s needs in space-based services, scientific research and high-technology businesses development. This chapter also reviews the most important findings from the 2012 evaluation of Norwegian space activities by PwC. Chapter 4 shows how space activities may help Norway to solve current and future challenges in key policy areas. Particular emphasis is placed on the importance of space to issues affecting the High North, climate policy, the environment, security-related matters, transport and research. Chapters 5 and 6 cover issues related to collaboration with ESA and the EU. In Chapter 5, the focus is Norwegian participation in ESA. ESA’s organisation, programmes and industrial policy are discussed, along with Norway’s membership over time. Chapter 6 discusses the EU’s role as a European space actor. After an account of the rise of the EU in space, focus shifts to the satellite navigation programmes EGNOS and Galileo, and to the earth observation programme Copernicus. The chapter concludes by describing Norway’s participation in these two programmes along with the significance and consequences of the EU’s expanded role. Chapter 7 provides an overview of Norway’s ground-based space infrastructure, including facilities located in Svalbard, on Jan Mayen Island and in the Antarctic. Chapter 8 is devoted to state administrative responsibilities and ownership roles in organisations such as the Norwegian Space Centre, the Andøya Rocket Range, Norwegian Space Centre Properties and Kongsberg Satellite Services AS. Chapter 9 explains the Government’s active space policy measures. The white paper concludes, in Chapter 10, with administrative and financial implications.

To front page